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Highland business confidence on the rise after coronavirus crisis, according to survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

By Ian Duncan

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FSB Highland development manager David Richardson.
FSB Highland development manager David Richardson.

Optimism in the Highlands is growing among the small business community as more firms get back to work following the coronavirus lockdown.

A new survey has been published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which showed an improvement in trading during this year’s second quarter – which followed its small business confidence index at its lowest ever during the first quarter.

With tourism being a key driver in the Highlands, business leaders are looking to Scots to holiday at home to boost the sector and help footfall in the city centre.

David Richardson, the FSB’s Highlands and Islands development manager, said that across the Highlands tourism businesses were operating at between 40 and 60 per cent capacity and business was particularly good in parts of Sutherland.

He added: “It is very positive and booming. In Dornoch they are very busy.”

He said initiatives such as a reduction in VAT from the UK government for certain supplies of hospitality, hotel and holiday accommodation, and admissions to certain attractions had helped.

Mr Richardson said certain sectors seemed to be doing well and more people were now venturing out.

He added: “Things are taking off but we still lack the overseas visitors – it’s staycationers we are interested in. There are a lot of Scots holidaying in Scotland and they are spending their money.

“What is absolutely crucial now is businesses are trying to catch up on lost revenue and build up fat to last through the winter. Bookings are looking good next April and May already.”

Andrew McRae, the FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said the rise in confidence was good news.

He added: “Given that so many small businesses were closed up until very recently, this increased optimism is due in no small part to the coronavirus support rolled out by the UK and Scottish governments.”

Scotland’s business minister Jamie Hepburn warned: “There is still much work to be done to repair the economic damage caused by the pandemic.”

The FSB’s confidence index increased from -154.8 points in the first quarter – the lowest ever recorded figure – to -10.1 points in the second quarter.

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