The announcement of a second national lockdown has triggered calls for clarity on financial support for struggling businesses across Perth and Kinross.
The region’s hospitality sector was badly hit when tougher level three restrictions were introduced towards the end of 2020.
Among those most impacted was the Gleneagles Hotel, which was closed down over the usually busy Christmas and Hogmanay season.
The temporary closure came after fears were raised for “widespread job losses” by Crieff Hydro hotels boss Stephen Leckie.
Vicki Unite, Chief Executive of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “As ever, we understand the difficult decisions government has to make in seeking to maintain the fragile balance between looking after the health of the nation and that of the economy.
“However, whatever decisions are made in tackling the virus, it is essential that the businesses affected – which support local jobs and communities – are adequately protected.
“Companies should not be penalised for matters outside their control when they have been doing everything within their power to comply and survive and today’s announcement is yet another bitter blow for businesses.”
She said: “It is critical that the Scottish Government implements measures to support private sector recovery once this period of restrictions is lifted and assists them in the meantime.
“Without urgent cash support, many businesses will be unable to survive and it is important that the business community is involved in government conversations and planning for recovery going forward.”
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, who represents Mid-Scotland and Fife, added: “I accept that measures had to be taken due to the high transmission rate of this new variant of Covid, which is causing concern across the UK.
“However, businesses will need more clarity on what financial help will be provided with mainland Scotland going back into lockdown.”
Mr Murdo, the Tory party’s finance spokesman, added: “Hospitality and the tourism sector, which plays a major role in the economy of Perth and Kinross, have been particularly badly hit by the Covid restrictions.
“So, these businesses need confirmation that they will receive the necessary funding during the period when they will remain closed.
“Of course the health of the nation comes first, but the SNP Government need to ensure our businesses are not forgotten.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, MSP for North Perthshire, said: “As the First Minister made clear, we are currently facing our biggest challenge since the peak of the pandemic approximately nine months ago.
“Accordingly, it has proved necessary to take strong, proactive steps to ensure that we protect our NHS and minimise the risk to health and life.”
Mr Swinney said: “It is never easy to take decisions of this magnitude, and I appreciate how difficult and disappointing this news will be for people across Perthshire.
“However, faced with sharply rising cases and a highly-transmissible new strain of the virus, we have been left with no alternative. With over 100,000 people already vaccinated across the country, we can justifiably look ahead to brighter days. In the interim, however, we must all continue to follow the guidance and do our bit in our fight against this virus.”
Local SNP MP Pete Wishart added: “I understand that this news will be extremely unwelcome, but all of the data tells us it has never been more necessary.
“The vaccine programme offers us a glimmer of hope, but sadly the more contagious UK Covid strain makes further restrictions necessary in the meantime.”
He said: “I want to thank everyone in Perth and Kinross for continuing to do everything that they can to help us keep this under control and ensure that our NHS does not become overwhelmed.”
Councillor Peter Barrett, leader of the local Liberal Democrat group added: “The stricter lockdown measures are necessary to slow down the rate of spread of the virus and to stop our NHS becoming swamped.
“But the disruption to school pupils, the damage to their education, the impacts of isolation on peoples poor mental health, is going to be substantial.
“The affect on jobs, livelihoods and the local Perthshire economy are worrying and demand a committed response from both the Scottish and UK Government and a much more rapid delivery of support fund from the Scottish Government to local councils.”
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