Sector plots recovery

Withers calls for wage subsidies for food workers

James Withers: ‘we are now writing the recovery plan’ (pic: Terry Murden)

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, says producers unable to furlough staff because of their role in keeping the supply chain intact, should be supported with wage subsidies.

Mr Withers say the UK government should emulating what is already happening in Ireland and Canada.

In an interview he says there is also a case for firms to be given holidays from National Insurance contributions and that there are other gaps to be filled in government support.

“We have [had] three companies in the last fortnight tell us they’ve been denied coronavirus loans because of uncertainty over long-term viability,” he told The Herald.

“The very reasons that lead to questions on viability are the reasons this loan scheme is needed, so it is perverse that it has been a barrier to support.

“The bounce-back loans should help though. The 100% guarantee from Government, simple application and rapid turnaround of funds should fix the access issue for at least small companies.

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“But in the end, this is still a debt offer. So whilst there is one year of no repayment nor interest, there is still reticence to use this option as a strategic solution.”

He admitted that the ambitious strategy to double the size of the industry by 2030 has been put on hold.

“The reality is we are now writing what will be the recovery plan,” he said.

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