Business Support

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd December 2020.

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Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

Quite simply, SPICe and the Fraser of Allander institute say that that is not correct. The Scottish Government has not spent every penny that is available to it. With regard to controlling the virus, I am afraid that that confidence has gone. Other countries have managed to keep those sections of the economy open through testing and tracing, and this Government has simply failed. The consequences will be lost businesses and lost jobs.

I am proud that, in my constituency, there is a richness of independent retail and hospitality businesses. It is with a sense of incredulity that those businesses hear that they are non-essential. Edinburgh is a city that thrives on tourism and its diversity of independent businesses. Those businesses are not non-essential—they are absolutely critical to the functioning of Edinburgh’s economy. Hospitality in level 3 and 4 areas is completely shut down, and those businesses feel that their Government’s responses to date have been crude and without detail and rationale.

As many members will have been, I have been having extensive Zoom calls with groups of businesses, particularly hospitality businesses, in my constituency. They have been doing a lot of work. We have been in discussion with businesses that represent 450 premises across Edinburgh, and they are clear that 5,000 of their jobs in the city have already been lost, and 3,000 more jobs will go if the current restrictions stay in place.

The businesses are also clear that the assistance that has been provided to date is completely insufficient. Collectively, there has been £650,000 of assistance, but that is only £1,500 per business. That is it. That amount does not even cover part of a day’s trading at this time of year. It is a drop in the ocean compared to the hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of losses that those businesses will be making.

I have still not had a response from the First Minister to my letter in which I set out very reasonable suggestions, such as the alteration of trading windows, limited alterations to the sale of alcoholic drinks, restricted seating times and improved safety standards. Those modest measures could improve the ability of the businesses to continue to trade.

The reality is that the restrictions would be difficult to manage at any time of year, but this time of year is utterly critical. Businesses, whether they are in retail or hospitality, are utterly dependent on the next few weeks to make the money that they need to survive through the rest of the year. The economic impact of the situation is simply not being recognised. Those businesses need more than hope—they need help.