New Year despair

Firms fear time is running out to get support

Cockburn Street Edinburgh pubs
Pubs are losing thousands in lost trade

Struggling businesses in Scotland say Scottish government support is not being delivered fast enough and that time is running out.

The First Minister announced a second tranche of funding today that will provide £107m that will be available in the year and said an update on the 10-day isolation rule will be given next week.

But hospitality businesses say they have been kept waiting since public health warnings were issued earlier this month and wiped 70% off their expected takings.

UKHospitality Scotland’s executive director Leon Thompson said: “Not a single penny of the promised support has reached businesses that have exhausted their financial options.

“Hospitality businesses need access to it now, not in a few weeks. As it is, the money does not compensate them for the enormous losses they have experienced this month. Our sector has lost more than £1 billion during December.

“For those businesses able to operate, the extended period of self-isolation is a further challenge. The sector will now need to wait another week for an update on the current 10-day rule.”

“As businesses count the cost of a losses over Hogmanay, many today will fear the worst for their future.”

There is also anger and frustration that thousands of Scots will head south into England to enjoy New Year’s Eve parties after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for celebrations to go ahead. Similar dismay was being felt on the Welsh border where different rules apply within walking distance.

Nicola Sturgeon today appealed for Scots not to head to England and offered her sympathy for businesses affected by the latest restrictions which remain unchanged until at least 17 January.

For indoor standing events, the limit is 100 and for indoor seated events, 200. For outdoor events, it is 500 seated or standing.

The latest funding follows an initial £100m package from £375m committed to business support.

Decisions on the allocation of the remaining £168m will be confirmed following consultation with affected sectors on how it can best be targeted

The latest £107m support package is broken down into:

  • £32m more for hospitality and leisure businesses
  • £10m targeting parts of the hospitality industry most severely affected by requirement for table service
  • £5m targeted support for nightclubs now required to close
  • £27m for culture, due to impact of physical distancing and caps on attendance
  • £17m for events, due to impact of physical distancing and caps on attendance
  • £16m for existing public transport COVID-19 support schemes to recognise the impact on fare revenue

Hospitality businesses will be contacted by their local authority to access top-up funding through the December and January Business Top Up.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We recognise that the public health measures necessary to limit the spread of Omicron have had a severe economic impact, especially for sectors like hospitality and culture which would normally be experiencing their busiest trading period.

“We will be providing a total of £375m for affected businesses and continue to press the UK Government for more comprehensive support, akin to what was provided earlier in the pandemic. We know this funding won’t cover all losses but it is to compensate for cancellations and ensure businesses can survive the winter period and be ready to trade fully in the new year.

“The best way to support business sustainably is get the virus back under control. Please get your boosters and stay at home as much as possible just now.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The instructions to work from home and socialise less, coupled with new restrictions which prevent stores from trading at capacity, are having sharp consequences for Scotland’s shops and retail destinations especially in our city centres.

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