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Concern over delay

Property and retail join calls for earlier restart

housing for sale

Properties cannot be visited

Pressure is mounting on the Scottish Government for earlier action on restarting the economy – or face a jobs oblivion.

Scottish Conservatives have highlighted weak Scottish home sales – 103 in April from 5,765 in March – as evidence for urgently helping the flagging property market.

The Scottish Retail Consortium has called for Holyrood to follow Northern Ireland’s example which is allowing shops that are ready to open safely to do so from today.

Yesterday there were similar calls from the leisure and hospitality sector to reopen venues as Crieff Hydro became the latest hotel group to warn of potential meltdown and hundreds of job losses.

The latest demands come as the RBS/NatWest purchasing managers index today shows Scotland had the smallest rebound in business activity since April among all regions and nations in the UK.

The Conservatives point out that during the current lockdown phase estate agents cannot open branches to the public or visit people’s homes for photography or to carry out market appraisals.

Surveyors are unable to return to work because they are not allowed to visit any properties.

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“If surveyors cannot access properties then they cannot be valued or inspected prior to sale which will almost certainly delay the ‘reopening of the market’ in Phase 2,” say the Conservatives in a statement.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has specifically stated that Phase 1 and Phase 2 are not clear enough in setting out exactly what estate agents and surveyors can and cannot do.

Graham Simpson, Scottish Conservative shadow communities secretary, said: “The decimation of the housing market over the last two months is well known, but the figures are still utterly shocking.

“There is no reason that property professionals cannot visit residential properties and follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks and gloves.”

Frustrated Scottish retailers say a wider range of shops will be eligible to re-open in Northern Ireland from today (8 June), including furniture or home furnishings shops, electrical appliance stores, electronics/computer and mobile phone shops.

From 15 June the full range of shops in England will be able to re-start. However, there are still no indicative, let alone firm dates, for reopening shops in Scotland.

This is increasingly becoming make or break time for retailers across Scotland, as the longer that this lockdown goes on the harder it will be for them to reopen at all

– David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium

Last week the SRC wrote to Scottish Ministers asking if a similar approach to the one being pursed in Northern Ireland – permitting shops with lower customer density to open early – could be adopted in Scotland.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “This is increasingly becoming make or break time for retailers across Scotland, as the longer that this lockdown goes on the harder it will be for them to reopen at all.

“This would have a significant detrimental impact to town centres and high streets, as well as for shopper choice.

“Whilst retailers in Northern Ireland and England are in the enviable position of knowing when they are likely to be able to re-open, shopkeepers in Scotland are somewhat in the dark and don’t have a firm timetable to work towards.

“Those shops which have been open and trading during the crisis have led the way in providing a safe environment for shoppers and staff. Those stores still to be allowed to re-open are working hard to get ready to do so safely, putting in place the necessary social distancing and hygiene measures to protect customers and staff. 

“Whenever that day comes retail will be ready to play its part in getting Scotland’s economy moving again. Retail can be a springboard for the economy to bounce back, but it must be able to open.”

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