More Scottish on-trade businesses are in growth than at this time last year – but many have serious concerns about the impact of Brexit.
Those were two of the key findings in the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) Christmas/New Year Market Review, sponsored by KPMG UK.
The survey of more than 500 operators found that 48 per cent of outlets are in growth, compared to 39 per cent at the end of last year and 28 per cent at the end of 2016.
However, one in seven are in serious decline with many in rural areas hit the hardest. Of those, none reported major growth and 21 per cent were in serious decline.
Brexit is also looming over the industry with 17 per cent saying they have already seen a negative impact from it. A further 40 per cent of outlets are anticipating losing staff as a result.
SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: "After a number of years of decline, our summer report indicated a recovering market and this trend has continued over the festive period, with 69 per cent of outlets either growing or stable at Christmas versus 59 per cent for the whole of 2018."
He pointed to locally sourced gins and beers as key drivers of trade along with Scotland's tourism industry.
He added: "However, there are concerns, particularly around Brexit and in rural outlets, where pubs are critical to the community, and key employers."