Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, calls for banks to make payments to the self-employed now and reclaim from the Government in an exclusive column for The Courier.
We find ourselves facing unprecedented circumstances and the end point is far from clear.
For businesses, the necessary restrictions to protect human health could be the death knell for many of them.
Already we are seeing ventures shut up shop for good, not just temporarily, with devastating effects on employees and owners alike.
The UK and Scottish governments have unveiled several initiatives in an attempt to mitigate the untold damage this pandemic is having on business, the economy and communities.
Their interventions are like nothing we have seen in peace time – but will it be enough to prevent the permanent crippling of the economy? The proof of that pudding will be in the eating, I’m afraid
Each pronouncement, by the prime minister, the first minister, the chancellor of the exchequer, the business secretary, are all welcome. But each comes with a need for detail – which sometimes comes with a sting in the tail.
For example, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said his recent package of support offering 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month for the self-employed would encompass 95% of those.
However, it has turned out that this cohort will not include those who have less than a year of trading and contractors who pay themselves in dividends.
The latter are more likely to be making beyond the £50,000 threshold though not all. There will also be many self-employed people making just over the £50,000 per year mark who will struggle to get by in coming months.
The fact that none of those who are lucky enough to be eligible for self-employment support will get cash into their business accounts before June is also a dilemma for many.
In this crisis, we have seen wonderful examples of true community spirit.
So many of us took part in the “clap for carers” – an emotional recognition of the fantastic work done by those in our health and caring sectors.
Businesses are part of our communities – indeed they are a central focus, creating local jobs and putting back into local economies.
Business leaders and our employees are working long hours at designing and producing new products, often at breakneck speed, to fight the virus and protect all of us.
There have been differences of interpretation as to whether a business should continue its production of products and/or services. If a business cannot transfer all its operations into a home-working model but can implement the government’s safe distancing rules, then it can continue to operate.
Inevitably there has been some misunderstanding in relation to whether a business should close its doors or not.
But what is clear throughout is that the health of all our employees is the absolute priority for all of us.
What more can our extensive banking community do for business?
A suggestion: With the government underwriting payments to the self-employed, why don’t banks pay these sums out now, assured they will receive the funding back from the government?
Immediate cash in the system is what is needed. We would ask banks to support as many businesses as is possible.
We have heard reports which suggest that recovery from the economic shock delivered by the coronavirus pandemic will be slow.
But we urge businesses to hang in there and investigate fully some of the generous support schemes on offer, whether it is grants, loans, business rates or tax payment holidays.
For those who do not fit into a particular initiative – don’t give up – contact your local Chamber of Commerce.
It is perhaps unlikely we are all going to make it when business returns, but return it will.
And those of us that are standing will need to be ready for the upturn when it comes and lend a supportive helping hand to others.