Responding to the latest update on lockdown restrictions and the outline of indicative dates for the re-opening of the economy from the First Minister, Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said:
“The timetable announced by the First Minister does go some way to addressing the concerns that our members expressed to us following the lack of detail offered by the previous update in February. Firms across the North-east will welcome some clarity around the path ahead and with these provisional dates, now have a firmer basis to plan for a safe and sustainable re-opening. Equally, it’s positive to see some certainty on the future of financial support, with larger upfront payments, but it’s crucial that we remain poised to bring support back into play if any of these timelines slip.
“However, as government continues to focus on ‘data, not dates’ we must emphasise the need to accelerate this timeline wherever possible, including the further relaxation of restrictions. The Scottish timetable sets out a cautious easing with some more persistent measures than those observed in England. Non-essential retail is likely to open earlier south of the border, and measures like curfews for hospitality appear to be held in place for longer in Scotland. Rather than only looking to ease restrictions on a national basis, government should consider whether the levels system could allow for an accelerated easing in regions like the North-east if cases remain low.
“Some question marks are also outstanding, particularly around the return of travel both across the wider UK and internationally. Governments and industry must work with pace to resolve the path forward for travel, given that it will underpin the recovery for large parts of our hospitality and live events sectors. In parallel, we need to see more detail on the return of offices, as only a partial return has been trailed in the roadmap for this crucial element in the battle to revive our city centres.”