Alison McRae: Looking back at the Covid crisis and looking forward to it.


Yeah, it’s been an unprecedented year – a term that none of us anticipated would be used as much as we reached 2020.

It was also a year of new words: “covid-19,” “furlough,” “pivot,” “lockdown,” “Nightingale hospitals,” “social distancing,” and “bubbles” all popping up in everyday language – the latter with a whole new meaning.

And, when so many of us work from home, we have seen a new virtual work life.

As we gather around one of the many emerging digital innovations that have been adopted with such vigor and pace – having previously met with considerable opposition from many -‘ They’re muted’ has become a standard expression. This choice has undoubtedly been forced by a global pandemic.

I was thinking about what happened that year, and when I learned we were in deep trouble, I remember it vividly. It was March 4th at the spring conference of the Scottish Tourism Alliance in the SEC, where the First Minister unveiled the latest tourism plan, Scotland Outlook 2030 – a true joint initiative led by Marc Crothall and the world-class STA team.

She made some introductory remarks regarding Covid-19, which had since landed in Scotland, before giving her official address.

There were only a couple of instances at that point, but her tone was somber and she said it was likely to get a lot worse before it got better, and she hoped we’d come out of the other side all right.

For our corporate group, the situation turned into a war of nerves when we went into lockdown later that month. The Glasgow Chamber team, headed by our CEO Stuart Patrick, worked diligently throughout, flying the flag on the front lines to support and lobby for members and fight for the best interests of Glasgow.

In the beginning, it was all about listening to companies and knowing the challenges they face, as well as collecting information to minimize the effect on the business environment of the city so that we could respond accordingly.

This has culminated in the rapid creation of the Glasgow Business Resilience Board, which has about 60 senior members from a wide variety of industries, and our frameworks for promoting resilience through the Dram Agency’s outstanding policy support. Over the last 10 months, this has been our anchor, helping us to respond to changing UK and Scottish government policies and announcements on a weekly basis.

Via the British Chambers of Commerce, the first lobbying campaign was aimed at supporting businesses that were likely to face cash flow issues. The Chancellor launched the Job Retention Policy shortly afterwards, and continuing work has ensured that it will now be extended until the end of April. There have been several calls for action from both the UK and the Scottish governments, including various business subsidies, mass testing and funding for young people, who will inevitably be among the hardest hit by this crisis.

With Glasgow now experiencing the worst number of tourists of any UK city, the wellbeing of our city center businesses is more critical than ever. The call for a taskforce in the city center would concentrate on providing the city with leadership and lobbying at the highest level to discuss and address the most important issues.

It has been a long road and it has never been more important for the personal well-being of all of us.

As we head into a holiday season like no other, I want you all to make sure that, even for a short time, you stop and take a break.

There is no question that to deal with whatever 2021 has in store for us, we all need to thoroughly recharge our batteries.

Alison McRae is senior director at the Chamber of Commerce in Glasgow.


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