Responding to the announcement by the First Minister that the current lockdown restrictions will be extended to at least mid-February, Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said:

“The further extension of these restrictions continues to put real pressure on North-east businesses, with many continuing to lose significant sums of money for each additional day of closure.

“With this uncertainty continuing, we need to see ambitious steps in the Scottish Budget to extend current rates reliefs, bolster grant support and create the best possible environment for recovery post-lockdown. Alongside this, we support the calls of the British Chambers of Commerce for the Chancellor to set out much-needed measures, such as the extension of the furlough scheme, well in advance of the UK Budget on March 3. These strengthened support measures are critical to the survival of firms across our region.

“These announcements of support must be matched with a refreshed, pragmatic routemap to re-open the economy and safely ease restrictions as soon as is practically possible. Government must set out a clear and aspirational re-opening strategy to ensure that firms have the clarity they need as we embark on the formidable task of rebuilding our economy post-CV19."

The Chamber recently sent an open letter to all MPs, MSPs, relevant Ministers, Cabinet Secretaries and local authority leaders outlining the key concerns of the North-east business community and the actions it believes are needed to give them a chance of recovering from the impact of CV19 and kick-starting our regional and national economies.

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The extended lockdown restrictions will come as a heavy blow to much of Scotland’s business community who are already struggling to keep their heads above water and who now face further uncertainty over when they will be able to open their doors again.

“We cannot emphasise enough the importance of increasing the pace of distributing business support grants; this must be accelerated in order to prevent the significant collapse of businesses and jobs. We also call on the Scottish Government to use the Scottish Budget next week to outline measures to help restore much needed confidence and investment.

“We also urge the UK Government to seriously consider the clear need to extend the furlough scheme beyond April 2021 and outline further initiatives to protect business and jobs at the UK Budget in March.’’

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