MORE than 20,000 jobs in Scotland’s pubs could disappear if the current 2-metre rule on social distancing is maintained, the trade has warned.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SPBA) said the sector could be “decimated” if premises have to exclude most customers from the provisional re-opening from of July 15.

Citing a survey which covered 300 pubs across Scotland, around 7 per cent of the total, the SBPA said almost nine in ten landlords reckoned they would not be financially viable.

This could potentially lead to the loss of 23,600 jobs in the trade, the industry body said.

The warning coincided with official figures showing Scotland has the highest unemployment rate among the UK’s four nations, at 4.6%, up from 3.5% the previous quarter.

Unemployment north of the border rose 30,000 to 127,000 from February to April as the lockdown brought large parts of the economy to a halt.

The UK jobless rate was flat at 3.9%, but numbers on UK payrolls fell by 600,000, and the number of people claiming work-related benefits jumped 126% to 2.8million.

SBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin urged the Scottish Government to move from 2m to the 1m social distance backed by the Word Health Organisation, a move Nicola Sturgeon has so far resisted, arguing coronavirus still poses too much of a threat.

The First Minister is expected to announce the reopening of beer gardens and outdoor restaurants on Thursday, with indoor premises set to follow three weeks later.

Ms McClarkin said: “The results make for stark reading. Not only will 87% of those surveyed be unable to open, those that can trade at the 2m mark will potentially have to let 52 per cent of staff go. This would lead to over 23,600 jobs losses in our sector alone.

“Keeping a 2m rule in place simply does not make financial sense and the fallout will see the loss of thousands of jobs affecting both the Scottish economy and local communities.

“Implementing a controlled environment to protect both customers and staff and dropping social distancing measures to 1m we will see 82 per cent of licensed businesses being able to open their doors to the public and provide a much needed boost to the industry.

“We are calling upon the Scottish Government to both reassess the current measures in place if they wish to kick-start the industry and work with us to safeguard over 23,600 jobs.”

Lisa Wishart, from the family-run Scottish pub group Lisini's, added: “It is simply not viable for us to reopen on 15 July due to the current social distancing rules. 

“However, if we followed the World Health Organisation’s directive, not only could we provide a safe environment for our patrons, we would be able to safeguard most of our employees livelihood’s as we return to a new normal post coronavirus.”

The SBPA said over 85% of those surveyed planned to use PPE for staff if they reopened.