Introducing Level 4 restrictions to 11 council areas in Scotland in the weeks before Christmas will deal small businesses a “body blow”, experts have warned.
From 6pm on Friday, the areas will be placed in the highest tier of coronavirus measures until December 11 to combat “stubbornly and worryingly high” infection rates.
Non-essential shops will be forced to shut, with bars, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers and visitor attractions also prohibited from opening.
Meanwhile, rules on non-essential travel will become law.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) estimated almost half (45%) of non-essential shops in Scotland will be forced to shut again – costing £90 million a week in lost revenue.
SRC director David Lonsdale, said: “There is little evidence shuttering shops does much to suppress the spread of Covid, but it’s undeniable closing high street stores in November and into December during the critical Christmas trading period is a hammer blow to hard-pressed retailers.”
The busy festive trading period was the “worst possible time to close these stores” he said, adding: “The blunt reality is the offer of grant support won’t make up those lost sales.”
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said many companies will need a “significant increase in support immediately if they are to keep their heads above water”.
She said: “While firms recognise that economic recovery can’t take place without a significant reduction in transmission, this latest announcement comes as a body blow for businesses across many parts of Scotland with the all-important festive trading period already upon us.
“Businesses, particularly in the hardest hit hospitality, retail and tourism sectors, have been told continuously that they must endure short-term pain for long-term gain.
“With many firms still operating under what were originally described as short, sharp restrictions, we now need a firm guarantee that the Scottish Government will stick to their timetable for lifting Level 4 restrictions.
“Firms also want to see robust evidence that closing more businesses will reduce the level of transmission.”
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, echoed the calls for the Scottish Government to provide guarantees to businesses.
He said: “Today’s changes shut the doors of thousands of smaller Scottish firms at their busiest time of year, resulting in despair and anger among independent shopkeepers, publicans, restaurateurs, barbers and beauticians.
“Ministers must provide a cast-iron guarantee to our small business community that they will be given an opportunity to trade normally ahead of Christmas, especially when many big businesses face few operating restrictions.”
Marc Crothall, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) chief executive, described First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement as “the final blow for many of Scotland’s tourism and hospitality businesses in these areas”.
He said: “The news announced today that a £15 million support fund will be offered to the newly self-employed will come as a relief to some in the tourism sector, however we await to see the finer detail of this.”
Following talks the alliance had with the First Minister last week, he hopes a targeted support package for tourism and hospitality “will be forthcoming in the coming days”, adding current support falls short for most businesses.
“Without further specific and targeted support I fear will we be hearing of many more businesses not able to survive this ‘third winter’ and closing their doors for good,” he said.
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