Sturgeon’s grant to businesses should also cover independent retailers, says FSB

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Trade bodies have welcomed Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement regarding changes to Covid isolation rules as well as new grant funding for businesses.

Sturgeon confirmed Covid self-isolation rules in Scotland can be reduced to seven days – as long as people don’t have a fever and record two negative lateral flow results. She also announced a £55 million fund to support taxis, hairdressers, and sports and tourism operators who have been hit by the new Covid-19 restrictions introduced last month.

Reacting to Sturgeon’s announcement, Federation of Small Businesses Scotland said that financial support should also be provided to other operators, like “independent retailers” which are currently outside the scope of current schemes.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “The welcome revisions to self-isolation rules outlined today will give smaller Scottish employers an inch more flexibility. But Ministers must remember that many firms have faced a dramatic slowdown in trade over the last few weeks that’s putting them under intense pressure.  

“We endorse the expansion of grant help to include taxi drivers and those providing beauty and hair services. Financial support should also be provided to other operators, like independent retailers and businesses allied to the tourism industry, outside the scope of current schemes but facing hardship.  

“At next week’s update, the First Minister must shed more light on the circumstances that would see current restrictions lifted. If the Omicron-variant has changed the rules of the game, local and independent firms deserve to know what those rules are.”

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Russell Borthwick described the latest funding as a “drop in the ocean” and said thousands of jobs were at risk.

“Despite mounting evidence that Omicron is far less severe that previous Covid-19 variants, we have a continuation of this economic lockdown, which is affecting a range of sectors, effectively shutting down businesses and starving high streets of the footfall required to survive,” he said.

“The funding being made available to businesses remains a drop in the ocean compared to the losses being incurred, and this is being compounded by the fact that it is not reaching firms quickly enough.