Further easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland as the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ receives a mixed response
Pubs, hairdressers, hotels, beauticians and shopping centres can all re-open this week as the country takes another big step out of lockdown and moves into Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Route Map. Exemptions to the 2 metre social distancing rule are also now allowed in some settings. These are welcome changes that will help many businesses but some important business sectors, including ‘non-essential’ offices, business networking, indoor gyms and many entertainment venues, such as theatres, still do not know when they can re-open, and there is no date for the recommencement of ‘live’ business networking.
These changes follow last week’s fiscal package from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The main elements of his package are the Job Retention Bonus, which will pay a company £1000 for every worker it brings back from furlough, the Kickstart Scheme that will provide funded 6-month work placements for those aged 16-24, Eat Out Vouchers worth £10 a head and a temporary cut in VAT to 5% for the hospitality and tourism sectors. Changes to Stamp Duty to stimulate the housing market were also announced and this was followed by an announcement by the Scottish Government that the threshold for Land and Buildings Transaction tax would also rise. The Treasury says the total value of its stimulus package is £30bn and has promised further measures if needed.
Although the overall package has been broadly welcomed as a step in the right direction, some of the specific measures announced have had a lukewarm response and doubts have been expressed in many quarters that the whole package is not of sufficient scale to stimulate consumer demand and business investment enough to prevent significant job losses as the furlough programme winds down. Critics have pointed to some significant gaps in support, including an across-the-board cut in Employers National Insurance , which is widely seen as an effective way of saving jobs, and details of what financial support will be made available to businesses who are caught up in local lockdowns.
Click Here for the Scottish Government’s Route Map
Click Here for a summary of the Chancellor’s announcement
Click Here for the British Chambers of Commerce response to the Chancellor’s announcement
Click Here for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce response to the Chancellor’s announcement