The news at the start of the week that mainland Scotland was going into a second lockdown was difficult to hear.
Restrictions have been rapidly reintroduced when, just four weeks ago, they were being relaxed in many parts of the country. Once again, our lives have been dramatically altered.
When we first went into lockdown, last March, few of us could have imagined that 10 months on we would be facing the same restrictions again.
For tens of thousands of Scottish businesses, these developments are potentially crippling.
Pubs, restaurants, hotels, non-essential shops and gyms, along with many others, have been forced to close their doors again.
Those businesses have collectively spent millions of pounds and devoted countless hours making their premises Covid-secure in order to protect their staff and customers.
The speed at which restrictions have been reintroduced will have meant that stock will have gone to waste and orders cancelled at the last minute. Those businesses also have no guarantee of when they will be able to reopen.
Many of those affected by the restrictions are not big chains but locally-owned employers that were just managing to get by when the pandemic began.
Now they have endured numerous cycles of opening and closing over the last 10 months and burned through whatever savings they may have had.
It is more important than ever that both of Scotland’s governments are doing everything they can to support Scottish businesses.
The UK Government has already taken unprecedented action by protecting almost one million Scottish jobs through the furlough scheme.
It has also supported 79,000 Scottish businesses with Bounce Back Loans and delivered £8.6 billion to the Scottish government to manage the pandemic.
Yet, in the words of the Federation of Small Businesses, support from the SNP government in Edinburgh has been “a dollar short and a day late”.
Their own statistics show that more than 15,000 businesses are still waiting for their application to the business support fund to be processed, even though that fund closed in July.
We are proposing a 10-working day national standard for new business applications to be processed and councils given the right support to clear the application backlog.”
Also, £1 of every £3 set aside to support businesses over the October ‘circuit breaker’ has not been paid out.
The SNP have also announced support for various groups like wedding suppliers and taxi drivers at the start of December, yet we are now into 2021 and those businesses still cannot apply for that funding.
That is why the Scottish Conservatives are calling on the SNP to take urgent action to improve the business grants system.
We are proposing a 10-working-day national standard for new business applications to be processed and councils given the right support to clear the application backlog.
This will ensure that businesses have the certainty of when they can expect a decision on their grant application and, most importantly, can access funding sooner.
We are also calling for an end to the press-release-first-and-guidance-second approach that the SNP has taken on business funding.
They should have applications open as soon as an announcement is made so that businesses are not waiting weeks for vital support.
In addition, we are challenging the SNP to match the UK’s commitment to pay up to £9,000 as a one-off grant to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England this month.
Nicola Sturgeon’s government is sitting on more than £700 million from the UK Government. Get this money spent.
Given how difficult this winter is, this money should be used to support struggling shops, pubs and hotels now, not hoarded away for another day.
Finally, we urge the SNP to give retail, hospitality and leisure businesses certainty that they will not face full business rates in the next financial year.
We need 100 per cent tax relief carried into 2021/22 so that we are properly supporting those businesses to recover from the pandemic. We will be campaigning for this to be delivered in the Scottish budget.
With the vaccination rollout, we are all hopeful that we will see a return to normality in the coming months. Yet, if we do not properly support businesses across Scotland now, then we may find that many local employers remain shut even as the rest of our country reopens.
Scottish businesses need cash in their accounts now, not more promises in SNP press releases. Jobs across Scotland depend on it.
Douglas Ross is Member of Parliament for Moray and leader of the Scottish Conservatives.