Liz Cameron: Businesses need quick cash to survive a bleak winter

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If there is one thing that 2020 has proved, it’s the old adage that the only constant is transition.

You might think that if you’re stuck on end-to-end video calls for much of the year inside the same four walls of the home office, that a little change will be welcome.

Don’t doubt it, however. For months and years to come, the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic and the start of a radically new relationship with the European Union will begin to unfold.

With the latest lockdown making the bleak midwinter even grimmer, the next few weeks face unique challenges.

It’s sad to say that this new set of restrictions will be the last for several more firms, with all that it means for their employees, their families and their suppliers.

That’s why the Scottish Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Scottish Government to include a robust support plan to ensure that, as we head into 2021, companies can maintain as many jobs as possible.

The support we have earned to date has been welcome, but it is no longer adequate considering the challenges we now face. In order to ensure that the money gets to where it is needed quickly, businesses need concrete, not piecemeal, strategies.

In Scotland and Westminster, the government needs to set out an agenda that provides companies with more stability and transparency.

The government is committed to restarting the economy and protecting us all from the risks raised by the virus, we need to know.

The government must clarify when business can be expected to resume once the data is in, so that corporations can have the confidence to reopen.

The government must, of course, respond to concerns about public health.

But we need a development plan with a vision for hard-hit retail, hospitality and tourism at a pace we haven’t seen before.

Without office staff or retail and restaurant companies, our city and town centers face critical challenges.

If we do not take care of the changes affecting our urban and rural centers, in the form of a drastic decline, we risk change.

There have been several attempts – some more successful than others – to reinvent and reimagine sites.

In retail, in particular, clients will continue to be drawn by those investing in a shopping experience.

In the meantime, developers and redevelopment advocates should concentrate on building versatile, accessible spaces for smaller retailers that will help the army of entrepreneurs we have in the market, attracting residents and visitors as well.

We need to sit down and make preparations about what our future could look like.

Too much, we have not been persuaded that our elected officials truly grasp the importance of the need to pay our rents and the other costs. Increased dialogue, channeled via the 30 Scottish Chambers of Commerce, provides a down-to-earth approach to recovery, ensuring that no one will be left behind who is part of the solution.

Adaptability is important to handling the kind of changes we have undergone this year.

We have seen companies adapt and change in Scotland.

Examples of companies entering new markets or adopting new approaches to sell goods have been identified in a recent study by VisitScotland, which supports the tourism industry.

Many that have found the will and the way to do this, when the old year ends and the new starts, are still around in one form or another. What we need now is that once they get the opportunity to flourish again, they will continue to survive.

Liz Cameron is the chief executive of the Chambers of Commerce of Scotland.

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