Commenting on the Scottish Government’s announcement of further COVID-19 related restrictions announced by the First Minister today, Russell Borthwick, chief executive at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said:

“We recognise the continuing challenge that our governments face in trying to manage the virus while also safeguarding our increasingly strained economy. Responses need to be proportionate and reflect a better balance between economic and public health concerns. Both the Scottish and UK governments have unhelpfully indicated that these new restrictions could potentially be in place for a sustained period, despite the fast changing nature of the situation, further damaging consumer confidence and demand.

“Businesses across Scotland have already been following and even exceeding the rules put in place to protect our employees and customers. They should be allowed to continue trading, with reasonable mitigations in place, if we are serious about protecting jobs and businesses as well as containing the virus.

“Along with limits on group sizes and music bans, the early closure of pubs, bars and restaurants represents a significant further blow to our beleaguered hospitality sector. And continued emphasis on working from home ‘where possible’ puts at risk the very survival of the retail businesses, restaurants and wider support eco-system in our towns and cities that rely on the footfall from office workers.

“The fact that the reintroduction of live events is now being pushed back even further could spell a death-knell for many venues and the guidance to avoid travel is putting incredible strain on the aviation sector in particular.

“All of this reinforces the importance of the Chamber’s persistent ask for targeted and meaningful support for these sectors. The Scottish and UK governments need to come together to set out clear review points and a route map out of these additional restrictions, but more crucially, a comprehensive package of support for the many businesses that continue to face tight limits on their operations. It is not tenable to instruct businesses to limit their operations without meaningful recompense. An evolution and extension of the furlough scheme, further targeted grant support and measures to reduce the cost of employment all need to be delivered now to protect jobs as these stricter rules come into force.”