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Scottish businesses face ‘catastrophic’ financial consequences if Scottish Government extends Covid restrictions – poll

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce

Almost a quarter of Scottish businesses are facing immediate financial peril should the Scottish Government extend Covid-19 restrictions today, a new report has warned.

A snap poll of nearly 700 companies has revealed that many firms are struggling with existing measures – and that 24% face severe financial consequences if vaccine passports and home working measures are widened.

Ministers will meet today to decide whether enhanced or new restrictions are required after concern over the rising trend for new recorded cases of Covid in Scotland.

Last night businesses briefed ministers on the scale of business opposition to such a move.

First Minster Nicola Sturgeon is expected to give an update on Covid measures in Holyrood today

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of firms polled jointly by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC)  Network and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) are opposed to more restrictions, with 45% already feeling that the measures currently in place are no longer justified.

The overall sample included a significant upweight from the AGCC survey, which showed even stronger business sentiment against the proposed measures.

It found 69% of businesses are against further restrictions being introduced, with 28% warning that it would have severe financial implications for their business.

Further restrictions ‘catastrophic’

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of AGCC, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that further restrictions, delivered after all meaningful financial support has been turned off, will be catastrophic for some firms.

“Businesses are carrying record levels of debt and a stuttering recovery will not be good enough – many need the economy to roar back to have a meaningful chance of survival.

“Vague statements about the imposition of further restrictions puts that recovery at risk.

“How can hospitality businesses possibly prepare for the busiest time of the year with further uncertainty clouding their immediate future?

“How can city centre businesses survive when home working continues to cripple footfall?

“How can bricks and mortar retail compete with online when the experience is, for many, simply not enjoyable.

“Existing restrictions are already placing a heavy burden on business – adding more, without evidence, proper engagement and financial support, will derail recovery and further erode the government’s economic credibility in the eyes of many in the business community.”

Government must consult businesses

Both organisations have already written to the Scottish Government stating that it is essential that Scotland’s business community is fully consulted before any additional economic deterrents are introduced.

Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron. Pic: Abrightside Photography

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of SCC, said: “Any reintroduction of restrictions will act as a painful economic deterrent for businesses across Scotland.

“As we forewarned last week, we urge ministers not to take a massive step backwards in our economic recovery from the pandemic which would place thousands of firms and jobs at risk.

“It is critical that our economic recovery does not lag behind that of competitors across the globe.

“Going backwards at this stage will put our recovery at risk, create further uncertainty and undermine consumer confidence.

“If restrictions are to be reintroduced under legislation, then companies will of course be forced to accept them, but Ministers must urgently outline the evidence for these decisions, detail what financial support the Scottish Government will make available to affected sectors and provide an end point to burdensome restrictions.”

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