Nicola Sturgeon said her “heart breaks” for businesses like the Crieff Hydro hotel chain as she vowed to reopen the tourism sector as soon as it was safe to do so.
The First Minister said the Scottish Government would “carefully consider” what type of support can be offered to stricken firms, when asked about the 240 at risk jobs at the Perthshire-based company.
At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing was “liaising closely” with the tourism and hospitality sector as it reels from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief executive Stephen Leckie has said he hopes to save more than half of the workforce but has admitted about 80 staff may have to go.
For every month that the hotels have been closed as a result of Covid-19, £500,000 has had to be paid out to keep the buildings safe and insured.
Mr Leckie has estimated that the group will suffer a revenue loss of at least £17 million (50%) in the current financial year.
The group runs the Crieff Hydro and Murraypark Hotel, also in Crieff, as well as Peebles Hydro and The Park in the Borders and Isles of Glencoe, Ballachullish Hotel and Kinghouse Hotel in the west Highlands.
Ms Sturgeon said ministers would “carefully consider the form and nature of support that is required in the months to come”.
She added: “We will do that very carefully taking into account the different circumstances that businesses are facing. We have got to recognise that in a sector like the tourist sector there will be a different variety of businesses that will be experiencing this. But we take very seriously our responsibility to help as much as we can.”
The First Minister said tourism was important to Scotland economically and in terms of the nation’s brand and international reputation.
“We want to get it back to normal as quickly as possible,” she said, adding that she wanted hotels and businesses to start operating “as quickly as it is safe to do so”.
But she sounded a note of caution, arguing that it would be counterproductive to do so too speedily, which would accelerate the spread of the virus again.
My heart breaks for businesses – family-owned businesses perhaps in particular – that have invested their blood, sweat and tears over many years in building up successful businesses to be hit with what we have all been hit with in the last few months.”
“We would not be doing any favours to any sector of the economy if we moved too fast on this and allowed the virus to run out of control again. But we want to see an opening up of the economy generally and tourism and hospitality as quickly as we possibly can,” Ms Sturgeon said.
The First Minister said the economic damage caused to businesses like Crieff Hydro was “absolutely devastating”.
“My heart breaks for businesses – family-owned businesses perhaps in particular – that have invested their blood, sweat and tears over many years in building up successful businesses to be hit with what we have all been hit with in the last few months,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“It is absolutely devastating. It is difficult for me to find the words that properly conveys that. That is why I’m so determined that we go forward in a way and at a pace that gets the economy back into operation as quickly as possible.”
The Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown, states that hotels may reopen during phase three of the four phase process. At the moment the country is still in phase one.