Responding to the statement by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP which outlined a roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in Scotland, Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Businesses have made it clear. The only route to protect livelihoods and jobs is to re-open the economy by enabling businesses to get back to trading, supported by a clear and transparent roadmap.
“Today’s announcement from the First Minister provides a direction of travel as to how some restrictions will ease and the conditions in which local business communities are allowed to re-open and re-build.
“We had expected today what the First Minister has said won’t be confirmed until mid-March. And while it does not go as far or as fast as the Prime Minister did towards clarifying when we can get back to business, we will continue to robustly represent business views to the Scottish Government to help inform this plan in the coming days and weeks.
“There will be some solace for businesses who can now look forward to the reopening of some trading from 5 April onwards. But for those that have to wait longer to re-open, their level of compensation should be higher. Come the end of April, we would urge the Scottish Government to relax restrictions on domestic travel as this will be essential for the survival of tourism and hospitality businesses currently reliant on domestic visitors.
“But time is of the essence. For many thousands of businesses, our debt is increasing, and our cash running out.
“We would rather the Scottish Government would have applied the same amount of rigour to our roadmap as the UK Government, in order to prevent further damage to Scottish businesses and the health and wellbeing of our communities. Otherwise our ability to plan and invest is hamstrung.
“More detail on the roadmap is essential as it will enable both consumers, as well as businesses, plan for reopening, and we need the Scottish Government to stick to its guns on these dates as much as is possible.
“It is important that Scotland remains as closely in step with the four nations as is possible. A competitive disadvantage to business communities elsewhere in the UK will only add insult to the injury already caused by the pandemic.”
On testing and vaccination, Liz Cameron said:
“The pace of the vaccination roll-out is to be commended, and the announcement of its success is evident in the reduction of hospitalisation rates. An adequate testing regime will be critical to re-opening.
“Workplace testing must be expanded to all businesses in Scotland and the Scottish Government should work with the business community to provide frequent low-cost testing options to workplaces of all sizes and sectors.”
On international & domestic travel, Liz Cameron said:
“A safe and co-ordinated restart of international and domestic travel is essential for the aviation, travel, tourism and leisure industry.
“These sectors have been key to growing and enhancing Scotland’s globally renowned reputation and brand.
“Scotland’s travel restart plan must include a clear sequence of how and when our borders can open, removal of domestic travel barriers and an aligned approach across the UK nations.”
On business support, Liz Cameron said:
“Businesses are running on empty. It is evident from today’s announcement that lockdowns will persist.
“Both Governments must extend and expand support to affected businesses, sectors and the workforce.
“We look forward to seeing further detail on the expansion of the Scottish Government business support funds. Because without a quality and fair package of compensation, many will not survive beyond the next quarter.”