A pub closed down in Scotland every week in the second half of last year, new figures have revealed.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said 28 pubs north of the Border closed their doors permanently between July and December, while across the UK, a total of 18 pubs are closing every week.
The organisation said that pubs are being hit hard by a triple whammy of one of the highest rates of beer duty across Europe, rapidly rising business rates and VAT, and called for the Government to make changes to tax which could benefit pubs after Britain leaves the European Union next year.
Colin Valentine, national chairman for Camra, said: “Pubs are now facing a crippling tax burden, exacerbated by the perfect storm of the last business rates revaluation and a high level of beer duty.
“From these new pub closure figures, it is clear that a fundamental change is needed if the British pub is to survive for future generations.
“As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, the Government has a unique opportunity to update the tax system to better support pubs.”
Valentine said that the Australian tax scheme of lowering duty on beer sold in pubs could be an option for the UK.
He added: “We can now look further afield for a new tax deal for the sector. This could include implementing the Australian model of having a lower rate of duty for beer sold in pubs, radically changing the business rates system, or charging a lower rate of VAT for pubs or, even better, all three.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pubs Association, called for cuts in duty – but warned that the Scottish Government’s proposed deposit return scheme would be “disastrous for the industry”.
She said: “These statistics clearly show that action is needed both at Westminster and in Holyrood to support pubs by lowering the unfair tax burden on pubs. Key to this is reducing the duty on beer, which has a major impact on the economic viability of a pub.
“The UK still pays one of the highest across Europe – consuming only 12 per cent of the beer yet paying nearly 40 per cent of total duty in the EU.
“In Scotland, the industry supports nearly 60,000 jobs.”