Businesses warn of 'immediate financial peril' if Covid restrictions are extended

Almost a quarter of Scottish businesses say they are worried about "severe financial consequences" if the Scottish Government decide to tighten Covid-19 restrictions today.

A joint poll by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce suggests that 65% of firms are opposed to more restrictions.

Of the nearly 700 respondents to the snap poll, 45% feel the measures currently in place are "no longer justified". 

The response from Aberdeen businesses was stronger, with 69% of businesses against further restrictions and 28% warning of severe financial implications. 

Russell Borthwick, chief executive at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is becoming increasingly clear that further restrictions, delivered after all meaningful financial support has been turned off, will be catastrophic for some firms.

"Businesses are carrying record levels of debt and a stuttering recovery will not be good enough – many need the economy to roar back to have a meaningful chance of survival. Vague statements about the imposition of further restrictions puts that recovery at risk.

"How can hospitality businesses possibly prepare for the busiest time of the year with further uncertainty clouding their immediate future? How can city centre businesses survive when home working continues to cripple footfall? How can bricks and mortar retail compete with online when the experience is, for many, simply not enjoyable.

"Existing restrictions are already placing a heavy burden on business – adding more, without evidence, proper engagement and financial support, will derail recovery and further erode the government’s economic credibility in the eyes of many in the business community."

Ministers will meet on Tuesday 16 November to decide whether enhanced or new restrictions are required. It follows Deputy First Minister John Swinney's suggestion that measures such as extending vaccine passports to cover all hospitality and leisure venues and increased working from home could be introduced. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "No decisions have been made about any potential changes. Parliament will be informed if and when any decisions are reached.

"Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has provided more than £4.4 billion to help businesses cope with the impact of Covid-19.

"We continue to support retailers and other businesses as we rebuild the economy following the pandemic, including through the work of the retail strategy, the Town Centre Review and City Centre Recovery Taskforce, as well as the Scotland Loves Local (SLL) £10 million multi-year support programme. This includes a fund, a SLL marketing campaign and a SLL gift card which supports local online businesses and aims to help increase footfall and activity while revitalising local places and town centres by encouraging communities to think, choose and love local."

Both organisations have written to the Scottish Government calling for the business community to be consulted before decisions are made. 

Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "Any reintroduction of restrictions will act as a painful economic deterrent for businesses across Scotland. As we forewarned last week, we urge ministers not to take a massive step backwards in our economic recovery from the pandemic which would place thousands of firms and jobs at risk.

"It is critical that our economic recovery does not lag behind that of competitors across the globe. Going backwards at this stage will put our recovery at risk, create further uncertainty and undermine consumer confidence.

"If restrictions are to be reintroduced under legislation, then companies will of course be forced to accept them, but Ministers must urgently outline the evidence for these decisions, detail what financial support the Scottish Government will make available to affected sectors and provide an end point to burdensome restrictions.”

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