13 Jan 2021
The latest meeting of the Glasgow Business Resilience Council saw Chamber President Paul Little welcome Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture.
Paul said in his introduction that the GBRC was a key platform for city and regional representation to local and national government on Covid-19 response and other areas such as digital, freeports and COP26.
He added that the group appreciated the chance to discuss such matters as the First Minister’s latest statement and enhanced lockdown measures.
In her opening comments Ms Hyslop said the new variant of Covid-19 had increased the spread of the virus, and that the capacity of NHS was an ongoing concern. She said the Scottish Government was aware of the issues facing city centres and was working with the Scottish Cities Alliance on a response.
She stated that the additional support announced on Monday would be paid automatically to those registered on the Strategic Framework Business Fund. She was aware that while this didn’t help with loss of income it helped address fixed cost challenges
The plan for recovery would seek insight from business and what is specific to Glasgow, including the Clyde Mission and recovery focused on place.
In the discussion that followed a question was asked about plans to fill the funding support gaps, to which the Cabinet Secretary replied this would have to wait for the UK Budget in March and Scotland consequentials. The Scottish Government had supplied £3bn of support so far and was keen to understand the scope for further support beyond March.
On a question about ramping up of the vaccination programme, she said it was being implemented as soon as it arrived, with 1,000 sites open in Scotland.
Chamber chief executive Stuart Patrick asked if there was a point at which we could map out the vaccination programme, the reopening of the economy and business support needed. To which the Cabinet Secretary agreed this was a very important area to work on but that it was not immediate priority, noting the Level 5 alert for the NHS.
Stuart also asked about city centre and hotel support given lack of footfall and the need for support given the hotel capacity required to support future events. The Cabinet Secretary agreed there was a need to ensure we have capacity in place for COP 26.
Stuart cited the need for city centre rates support or relief, and a Council member whose company has not been able to operate since March last year asked if rates relief would continue. On the issue Ms Hyslop said she recognised the fixed costs that businesses have in such areas as pension and National Insurance.
Another member sought assurance that construction would be able to continue to operate and cited difficulties that would arise in restarting the supply chain, to which Ms Hyslop commended the strength of compliance in the sector and said contact was ongoing with construction organisations. She said construction was in a strong place.
It was then put to Ms Hyslop that Glasgow’s distinctiveness as Scotland’s metropolitan region meant a need to consider additional place-based interventions for city centre and region. The Cabinet Secretary said she understood the position of Glasgow however there would be similarities in the work with Scottish Cities Alliance. She said City Deals needed to start delivering to support place-based recovery.
The next GBRC meeting takes place on Tuesday 19 January 2021.