I LOVE pubs. I’ve always had friends who prefer clubbing culture, but that’s never had the same appeal for me as a pub, preferable an oldish one that’s not too loud, with a good range of beer and no big-screen TVs.

That’s my preference, and everyone will have their own favourite place to socialise. A cafe, a community centre, a football bar or a favourite restaurant. It’s horrible that we’re having to live without them, and it’s even worse knowing some of these businesses won’t survive the virus crisis.

Scotland’s pub culture isn’t just about the booze, of course. In its assessment of what makes a high street ‘“healthy” for a community, the Royal Society for Public Health found the benefits from pubs outweigh the harm, because they encourage more moderate drinking compared to off-licences, and bring people together and maintain wellbeing.

Our pub culture has improved since the smoking ban too, despite the dire warning of self-styled “libertarians” who didn’t care about the freedom to breathe clean air. More pubs than ever serve food and welcome families. They are a major draw for visitors to our country and even more of a social hub for communities.

This is the context in which the hospitality sector entered the current crisis, and it’s hard to overstate the value of what could be lost.

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Covid restrictions have severely limited social interaction to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. They have been a tough but necessary step, but they have also devastated our pubs and exposed just how many people who work in the sector have been living with low pay and insecure contracts.

I know for a fact that some employers have strained every sinew to protect people, keeping everyone employed, topping up furlough to 100% and taking every possible care when things re-opened.

But the sad truth is there are others, including major high street chains, which have failed to protect their staff during this crisis. This week, I’ve been told by people who work in hospitality in Glasgow that their employers have instructed them not to install the Protect Scotland app and to keep their phones turned off while on shift.

I’ve heard of people being told to work when they should have been self-isolating, or told it will be an unpaid and an unauthorised absence. I’ve heard from many people that they are scared to book a test when they know they need it.

I hope this reckless and selfish behaviour is the exception not the norm, but it unquestionably places workers, customers and the wider community in danger.

The UK Government must take much of the blame for this situation. The furlough scheme has come to an end, and its replacement will see many people’s incomes cut to far below the minimum wage.

Hospitality businesses are in a grim situation and need more support than they are getting. But the Scottish Government also needs to ensure councils have the resources they need to take enforcement action against those which respond by exploiting their vulnerable workers and putting profit ahead of lives.

We have already seen pubs, cafes and other businesses beloved by communities lost during this crisis, and it’s devastating to know that many more are concerned they will either have to lay off staff or close altogether. It’s clear the current financial support packages won’t be enough to save many pubs and other hospitality businesses, so this needs to be addressed urgently.

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But there also needs to be a longer-term vision for the people working in this sector. They were already suffering endemic low pay, insecure contracts and poor working conditions before this crisis. Things need to change. That change will be won more easily if people are organised in their workplaces and able to assert their rights together.

The Scottish Greens have launched a “New Deal for Workers” which calls for greater powers for trade unions to protect jobs, pay and conditions. Unions can be centre stage in driving change in our economy, including the transition to a zero-carbon economy and creating high-quality green jobs for the long term.

But there’s a huge role for them to bring about change in under-unionised and underpaid sectors such as hospitality too, as Unite Hospitality has shown.

Better pay for workers means the wealth we all generate isn’t left sitting idly in tax havens or squandered on super yachts. Instead it circulates in the real economy. That means more taxes are raised, helping to fund public services, and more cash is spent locally in communities – and in those pubs and cafes that we need to see survive the current crisis.

Pubs and other hospitality businesses are so important for our communities and our collective wellbeing. It’s vital we place real value on them and the people who work there.