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GRANT CAMPBELL: The UK Government's Energy Bill Relief scheme needs to run throughout 2023 and into 2024 to give businesses hope

By Grant Campbell

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SCDI regional manager for the Highlands and Islands, Grant Campbell.
SCDI regional manager for the Highlands and Islands, Grant Campbell.

As I travelled back from the west coast last week and admired the changing colours of the landscapes, I couldn’t help but be reminded that as winter approaches, so do the mounting challenges for all the businesses of our region.

At the risk of energy costs becoming a standing agenda item in this column, it was good to see the announcement of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme from the UK government.

As our members have had the chance to digest what this means for their organisations, early indications are that while it is welcomed, it needs to run throughout 2023 and into 2024 to allow many small seasonal businesses the hope of survival let alone to prosper within the fragile communities many of them support.

While energy and supply chain cost increases are impacting all businesses, several sectors continue to grow and global demand for our food and drink exports continue to be strong.

Our aquaculture sector continues to innovate throughout their production processes with advanced automation and more fish friendly farming.

Our whisky industry goes from strength to strength with investment across the region in their distilleries and people.

It is an industry that is already committed to minimising waste continues to display leadership in the sharing of best practice in tackling climate change.

Our members recently had the chance to participate in a strategic round table discussion with minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise Ivan McKee MSP.

The discussion points were wide and varied in accordance with the minister’s broad portfolio of responsibilities but

while transport is not in his remit, members were keen to remind government of the importance of delivering on the A9 dualling promise.

Aside from the obvious shortening of journey times and its positive effect on movement of goods and services, the importance of safety has also reared its head again over the summer with a number of recent fatalities reminding us of the challenges the road brings to locals and tourists alike.

While the 2025 target is unlikely to be met, a revised timetable would be a good start.

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