17 Nov 2020
Dear Members & Stakeholders,
So now we know. Glasgow and much of the surrounding region has been moved on to Level 4 restrictions for at least the next three weeks, with a devastating impact on non-essential shops, the entire hospitality sector, leisure and entertainment and personal services.
The immediate outcome is that, given the number of businesses that must now close, just under 80,000 jobs will be back in suspension in Glasgow City alone, and a further 90,000 in the surrounding region, as once again businesses are switched on and off like light bulbs, putting livelihoods in serious jeopardy.
The lead up to Christmas is the time when many small companies build up their reserves to survive, particularly in the early part of the following year when trade is much weaker.
We know from talking to members that disillusionment and anxiety is setting in. Many say they have lost faith in the lockdown process, with almost all businesses saying they don’t see the evidence showing their sector has caused transmission.
They believe they have kept their side of the bargain by investing millions of pounds in making businesses safe and supporting government guidelines, while government hasn’t delivered its side of the bargain with effective Test and Protect protocols.
There seems to be an assumption that the Job Retention Scheme and other support measures keep businesses going. But while they are, of course, welcome they don’t cover the regular costs that small businesses have to find the cash for – rent, insurances, National Insurance contributions, staff pensions, equipment leases, bank loan repayments and so on.
We know all this now has come out of rapidly diminishing reserves.
The First Minister announced a further £30m of business support but we understand that has to be spread all across Scotland and is intended to last until March. It will make only a marginal difference.
After the previous lockdown we saw that it took longer for businesses to recover their customers and build up trade again. So, when business support measures run out they face the edge of a cliff.
Businesses want to stay open and safe. What we need – and fast - is more emphasis on mass testing along the lines being attempted in Liverpool, with businesses being brought into testing experiments. The First Minister has said that, at last, the Scottish Government is moving in that direction. We believe workplace testing is a new tool that can help reduce the need for such damaging lockdowns.
Without improved and extensive testing we are doomed to repeat a miserable cycle of lockdowns all through winter until the promised vaccines are rolled out.
Stuart Patrick CBE
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce