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David Richardson: Businesses need targeted support to keep them alive

By David Richardson

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David Richardson
David Richardson

Well, that was the year that was. Hopes of a quick recovery from the pandemic at the start of the year were dashed by Putin’s Ukrainian adventure, and here we all are, in a worse position than ever.

Countless smaller businesses really are struggling under the burden of sky-high costs, shaky consumer demand and significant shortages of staff, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost – far from it.

Highland businesses are extremely dedicated, adaptable and optimistic, and they and their hundreds of thousands of counterparts across the country really can take us out of recession by trading, adapting, employing and serving their communities, just as they did after the financial crisis of 2007/8.

However, to do so they need support, every sphere and level of government making it as easy and affordable as possible for them to operate to their full potentials.

The FSB wants governments to make smaller businesses’ overheads more manageable. No-one could have foreseen how costs would increase and margins be squeezed, and businesses in the most vulnerable sectors need targeted support to keep them alive today so that they can thrive and fully contribute tomorrow. Making it easier for businesses to invest is also essential, for there is a lot of catching up to do after three years of struggle. Access to finance is a big issue.

And the FSB wants smaller businesses to be freed from unnecessary or poorly designed regulation. Any such should only be introduced once it has been road-tested and its likely impact fully assessed, and even then, only when the time is right. It’s not right now. The flawed short-term lets licensing scheme, deposit & return scheme and local visitor levy tax on visitors are three obvious examples.

Finally, a plea. Tourism is the Highlands’ most important industry, keeping numerous rural communities viable, and it’s not a cash-cow to be milked or a cost to be borne grudgingly. So, let’s reflect this in our actions, investing more in essential infrastructure and working together to make it work for everyone.

David Richardson is regional development manager at FSB.

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