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Businesses should be equally supported across the UK

The Easter weekend would normally be a bumper time for our economy.

The bars would be busy, garden centres would do a roaring trade, and public spaces would be packed.

But with lockdown measures remaining in place, it is an incredibly difficult period for many people:

For the business owners who worry for their future; for our heroic key workers on the front line; and for all of us who would dearly like to spend some time with families and friends at what would have been the start of a holiday.

It is important that everyone continues to follow the government advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

The road ahead is uncertain and even if lockdown restrictions are eased in the weeks ahead, economic recovery could take months – if not years.

This week, the respected Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University estimated that Scotland’s economy could shrink by a quarter, with a huge impact on jobs and livelihoods.

For both the UK and Scottish Governments, the immediate economic priority is to stand by and support the country’s employers and employees. They are facing an unprecedented challenge in a constantly evolving situation.

The UK Government’s job retention scheme and the support for self-employed workers is on a previously unimaginable scale. With a huge army of civil servants working around the clock to deliver it, few countries in the world could match what is happening now right across the UK.

While devolution means there will be some divergence in the coronavirus responses, it is important that all businesses are supported wherever they are in the UK.

Firms in Scotland operating in hospitality, leisure and retail are being offered a one-off grant of up to £25,000. This is the cap even if they have numerous outlets.

But in England and Wales, businesses are being given this grant for each property they own.

For a business with four premises in Scotland that means they are £75,000 worse off than in England, which will make it more difficult for those businesses to survive the current crisis.

This scheme was set up to protect jobs and to ensure that our economy is protected. It is important that Scotland does not suffer disproportionately.

Scores of business owners are calling on the Scottish Government to help them, and a public petition has been launched here.

We hope that the Scottish Government will listen to the owners of small businesses and help to level the playing field across the UK.

A second issue has arisen meaning that people living in Scotland who are “shielded” are not benefitting from a scheme that is already established in England. This scheme allows them to be prioritised for supermarket delivery slots, which is crucial for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 to ensure they get the supplies they need. Supermarkets are still waiting for the Scottish Government to share the necessary information with them to allow this to take place.

We hope the Scottish Government takes steps to resolve this as quickly as possible.

Political parties at Holyrood are all working together positively to ensure our country’s response to the coronavirus crisis is the right one.

There are many lessons for our politics from this crisis. When we pull together, we can achieve so much more than when we are divided. We hope this is a change that is here to stay.

Happy Easter and please continue to follow the advice: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.


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