The announcement of another lockdown in Scotland will bring “more heartbreak” to Scottish businesses, trade bodies have said.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Monday that a legally enforceable stay-at-home order will be in place from Tuesday, along with the closure of schools to most pupils until at least the end of January.
Initially, Level 4 restrictions were due to be in place until the middle of the month, but the prevalence of a new, more transmissible variant of coronavirus has prompted an increase in measures.
Responding to the new measures, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) pushed for already announced schemes to support companies to start paying out and for the Scottish Government to devise more ways to ensure firms are protected during the new lockdown.
Andrew McRae, the Scotland policy chairman of the FSB, said: “Help for Scottish business can no longer be a dollar short and a day late. For a start, the glut of new support schemes announced at the end of last year need to start delivering cash to firms.
“So far, few of these initiatives have paid out a penny. Then ministers need to urgently look at new ways to get money to the local firms who’ve borne the business brunt of this crisis.”
Mr McRae also said the new restrictions being extended to the end of the month, and possibly longer, were likely to harm businesses.
“This hard lockdown will cause more heartbreak for Scotland’s smaller businesses,” he said.
“To stop deep disappointment turning into despondency, ministers need to mitigate the impact on independent and local businesses with easier-to-access financial help and crystal-clear advice.
“We need to see support for the economy match the scale and pace of these restrictions.”
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has also voiced concerns over the effects on business, claiming that non-food retail in Scotland has been “thwacked hard” by Covid-19.
SRC director David Lonsdale said work needed to be done to ensure the post-coronavirus recovery helps to keep retail firms in business.
“Even when stores are eventually permitted to re-emerge from this enforced hibernation, it is likely many will continue to suffer from lower shopper footfall. Prior to the current lockdown, footfall was down by a third.
“Whilst a return to trading is crucial, it will not be a panacea for the industry.
“That’s why we hope to see a recovery plan from government to get retail moving once again, including visibility on the route out of lockdown, early clarity over continued rates relief for the coming financial year, and short-term stimulus to boost consumer confidence and spending once shops can reopen perhaps through a high street voucher scheme.”
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