In a statement issued in response to the Chancellor’s announcement today, Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said:

“Practical actions such as extending the application process for government-backed loan schemes and creating significant flexibility around their repayment terms were one of the main asks of Chambers of Commerce across the UK in our direct discussions with government and are clearly welcome, ensuring that businesses will be able to focus on supporting our immediate economic recovery while still providing fairness for the taxpayer in the long-term. Similar actions to allow deferred VAT to be repaid in instalments will give firms some much needed breathing space.

“We also welcome the extension of the 5% rate of VAT to the hospitality sector, something which Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber argued for in advance of the previous Summer Statement from the Chancellor although we believe that this needs to continue well beyond March 2021 to remain competitive against our EU neighbours as an attractive tourist destination.

“The need for an evolution of the furlough scheme has been well-recognised and was a persistent theme in discussions with our members. The new Job Support Scheme, alongside the previously announced Job Retention Bonus, appears to give firms a small amount of scope as they do their best to retain workers through the months ahead.

“However, we repeat the message we are hearing from SMEs across the North-east and beyond. It is not tenable for governments to instruct businesses in key industries like aviation, hospitality, live events and their supply chains to limit or effectively close their operations, and yet find a way to survive with a scheme offering such a limited contribution to employment costs for staff that cannot be productively engaged for their full working week. So, more needs to be done to protect parts of the economy worst-hit, to position us for growth when we can take off the shackles and attempt to regain the unnecessarily lost economic ground.

“Vitally, both the Scottish and UK Governments must ensure messaging does not continually dent consumer confidence and renew efforts to find ways to reopen the economy in full as soon as is practically possible. This is the only sustainable and affordable way to protect tens of thousands of companies and millions of jobs across the country."

You can read the Chancellor's Winter Economy Plan here.