The return to a complete Covid freeze has been described by business leaders as a blow to Scotland’s economic recovery that will ‘break the hearts’ of smaller firms.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said cash support was now a matter of urgency for distressed businesses.
This was accompanied by the declaration by the First Minister that a legally imposed house arrest would begin at midnight and last for at least the rest of January, similar to last March.
At the earliest, in-person learning in schools was postponed from Jan. 18 to Feb. 1, while next week online learning will begin again.
Ms. Sturgeon told MPs that the recent coronavirus spike was extremely high, with a 65% increase in the number of cases per 100,000 Scots in the last week of December.
The spread of the more contagious British strain of the virus, which she called a “massive blow” and now accounts for almost half of the new Scottish cases, was a key factor.
“Dr. Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said in response to the freeze on returns, “Today’s news is another blow to the recovery of the private sector from this pandemic. While we fully understand the need for the Scottish Government to act in response to the alarming spike in COVID incidents, we should not ignore the direct effect on business and livelihoods.
The welcome news that the Oxford vaccine rollout has started today is a reminder that there is hope and that all our energies and resilience need to be focused on 2021.
What is equally crucial is that when this new round of restrictions is lifted, the Scottish Government is also taking steps that will provide a springboard for the revival of the private sector. Support for firms that have already been through too much and have survived 2020 must be expanded and all cash support urgently paid out.
I look forward to being part of the discussions about what more can be done to accelerate the recovery in the coming weeks.
“Asked by Tory MSP Maurice Golden about the comments in Holyrood, Ms. Sturgeon said, “I know this is a blow to corporations. It’s a blow to everyone today.
I do not sympathize in any way with the suffering of corporations or anybody else.
But if we do not take drastic steps now to get a handle on this virus, things will be much worse.
We don’t have to look too far to see if we dodge and postpone taking the appropriate steps now, how much worse things can get, which is why this is so difficult.
“I don’t want to be here to announce this, but it’s necessary to prevent the situation from getting worse.”
She said a range of funding sources were available to support companies and will be able to apply to those that need to close now, including the Strategic Structure Business Fund and the Local Authority Discretionary Scheme for companies who are losing out on other schemes.
“She said, “Major assistance is now available. I have already said freely that this would not reimburse every company for every loss, but I will urge companies to ensure that they apply for all these aids and we will continue to look at what more we can do in the coming weeks.
The Small Business Federation called on ministers to provide more assistance more quickly.
Scotland Policy Chair Andrew McRae said, “This tough freeze would cause even more heartache for Scotland’s smaller businesses. Ministers need to minimize the burden on independent and local companies with more affordable financial aid and crystal-clear guidance to stop deep disappointment leading to despair.
We need to ensure that business support suits the size and speed of these constraints. It can no longer be a dollar short and a day late to help Scottish companies.
For instance, it is important to start making money for companies with the influx of new support services launched late last year. So far, few of these projects have paid out a penny.
“Then ministers must urgently look for new ways to get money to local firms, which are bearing the brunt of the crisis.”