Economy Reopening timeline and extended financial support
In a development that gives some clarity to businesses and their employees, the Scottish Government has confirmed its indicative timetable for re-opening the economy. Some businesses can re-open from 5th April and the goal is to have the whole of Scotland in Tier 0 of the Strategic Framework by the end of June. It has also confirmed that business support provided through the Strategic Framework Business Fund will be extended beyond 31st March. The support will be front-loaded to help businesses prepare to re-open and will include one-off ‘Restart Grants’ for retail, hospitality and leisure. The removal of remaining restrictions, including those that prohibit non-essential travel to and from the rest of the UK or internationally, will be kept under constant review and removed as soon as it is safe to do so.
The key dates in the next stage of easing lockdown and the extended business support are here.
Alan Mitchell, Chief Executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is not a timeline to restriction-free, 100% trading for business but it is an important step on the journey and will be welcomed by Fife’s hard-pressed businesses. It will give them and their staff more hope that a return to normality is now within reach and allow them to start planning for their re-opening, and it gives some of them reassurance that financial support will be available to help them reopen successfully and thereafter if it is needed.
“Businesses will plan for reopening diligently and with the ongoing safety of their customers and staff at the forefront of their thoughts, as it has been throughout the pandemic. That is why business premises have not been a significant cause of Covid infection or transmission. I know this anecdotally from the many conversations I have with businesses but, more importantly, official statistics demonstrate it clearly. The First Minister must give proper weight to this demonstrable safety-first approach by business as she reviews the data over the coming weeks to decide whether to adhere to, accelerate or, crucially, decelerate her timetable.
“Level 0 will be fantastic when we get there but it will still leave restrictions in place in many businesses, so they will still find it difficult to trade profitably. Aviation and tourism in particular will be in a very challenging place if cross-UK and international travel restrictions aren’t lifted or at least eased. We must hope that the additional financial support available through the UK and Scottish Governments will be sufficient to keep them all afloat or allow them to retain all their staff while they wait for the removal of the final restrictions.
“We are at a crucial juncture. We have a business community that is committed to re-opening and trading safely. We have a vaccination programme that is quickly cutting the number of people at risk of serious harm from Covid. We have an economy that is under pressure rarely seen before and businesses that have been hammered financially for a year. Of course, some caution remains necessary when deciding how quickly to remove restrictions, but we cannot afford an overly cautious timetable to return to normal business and social activities or an over-zealous approach to trying to eliminate Covid. The First Minister must get this decision right.”