Tim Allan, president of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, on the hardships being faced by Scottish businesses during the pandemic.
The Scottish economy is on a precipice and the prospect of more stringent lockdown measures threatens to knock many over the edge.
Talk of a further blanket lockdown is unacceptable to Scottish businesses, which is why we welcome news from the First Minister that the worst will be avoided this week.
The Scottish Government seems to have stepped back from the sort of prevention measures we had to endure when the pandemic first started taking its toll.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has argued that while it is essential that people follow rules and that the spread of the virus must be controlled, locking down is a blunt instrument with disproportionate consequences.
We must be mindful that any measures announced will still have the power to cause damage to consumer and business confidence, which have already taken an unprecedented economic hit throughout this crisis.
The fragile Scottish economy, with looming unemployment and business failures, cannot endure another attack in this manner, especially in the absence of clear evidence linking the spread of the virus and any specific business practices.
We simply cannot continue to keep switching the lights of the economy on and off. It risks not just jobs but the wellbeing of entire communities.
Instead, we must focus on using the evidence we have to target problem areas. We have seen how test and trace and better data means we are in a much different place than at the start of the pandemic.
The data the Scottish Government now has is sophisticated and detailed and must show in which environments and geographical areas the virus is spreading.
In the vast majority of cases, the recent growth and spread of the virus is not coming from business-managed environments.
We can all see for ourselves, every day, that businesses across Scotland have invested heavily to protect customers and employees – those enterprises are playing an effective and deeply engaged role in the fight against the spread of the virus.
The voice of business needs to be given an equal place into how we manage Covid-19. The debate is currently dominated by the voice of science, the NHS and politicians.
All of these are hugely important, but we need a balance of all of these. We need governments to put their trust that businesses are doing the right thing by their staff and customers.
We know the virus will be with us for a long time. What is required now from governments is some vision of what ‘living with Covid’ will look and feel like: what will success be? Blanket lockdowns have no role to play in that success.