Scotland at 'breaking point'
Chambers chief warns against ‘needless’ lockdown
Tim Allan: lockdown would be a betrayal
A senior business leader has warned First Minister Nicola Sturgeon against a “needless” national lockdown which could strangle the economy.
Tim Allan, president of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said such a move would be a “betrayal” of those who have made sacrifices to control the coronavirus.
The Scottish Government is expected on Tuesday to review its Strategic Framework.
As the First Minister contemplates following England into a full nationwide lockdown, Mr Allan warns her not to panic by ditching the five-level system designed to reflect regional infection rates.
Mr Allan, who has previously questioned the logic of some of the restrictions, said most of the country should be seeing them eased not tightened further.
He says: “Scotland is at breaking point and at risk of being strangled for an overabundance of caution.
“We simply must not move into a lockdown or a so-called circuit break unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
“By the criteria set out in the Scottish Government’s own strategic framework, most of Scotland should be having restrictions eased, not locked down further.
“The complex tier system was created to reflect our regional variations in demography, geography and capacities.
“The First Minister must not panic and throw this plan away just days after it has been implemented, particularly where indications show the plan is working as transmissions are declining and going in the right direction.
“Frankly, a lock down would be a betrayal of our communities and businesses that have sacrificed so much and are working together to control COVID in their areas.
Many are at the point where it might just be easier to shut and restart at some point in the future, if at all– Tim Allan, Scottish Chambers
“For example, it would be monstrously unfair to place Aberdeen, Moray, Highlands and the Borders in a Tier 4 lockdown when the data shows they barely merit level 1 let alone 2.”
Mr Allan said the measures to protect jobs taken by the UK government only go so far and do not take into account other costs that businesses in lockdown have to meet.
“Although the extension of the furlough scheme announced by the UK Government is welcome, it is not a panacea: it will protect jobs to a certain extent, and it can provide a cushion for when areas need stricter measures to control the spread of the virus,” he said.
“However, most businesses which are already depleted of cash reserves from the last lockdown, and additional local lockdowns, we all still face other costs.
“Many are at the point where it might just be easier to shut and restart at some point in the future, if at all. That will be a disaster for all of us.
“Allowing businesses to trade as normally as possible must be core to the process of managing the virus.”
Retailers urge no lockdown before Christmas
Analysis by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has estimated that so-called non-essential retailers could potentially miss out on up to £200 million a week in lost retail sales if their shops are forced to close before Christmas as part of any new national ‘Level 4’ lockdown or circuit breaker.
The shop vacancy rate is at a five-year high, footfall has fallen by a third, and stores have missed out on £2.4 billion of lost revenues during the last eight months.
Scottish retailers have invested significantly since the Spring in physical distancing and hygiene measures and the SRC has suggested to Government that if there is to be a Scotland-wide lockdown or circuit breaker then so-called non-essential shops should be permitted to remain open, as is the case in Northern Ireland where a month-long circuit breaker is due to end on Thursday.
SRC director, David Lonsdale, said: “It’s been a torrid year for Scottish shops – but the worst may be yet to come if they are forced to close over the coming weeks. The golden trading quarter leading up to Christmas is crucial for many retailers.”