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New lockdown will be "painful" warns Highland business leader as he calls for easy-to-access funding

By Val Sweeney

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David Richardson.
David Richardson.

Concerns have been raised that the traditional Easter start to the main tourist season could be hit by the stricter coronavirus restrictions.

David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the region’s high dependency on tourism and hospitality made the restrictions introduced this week "painful" and called for easy-to-access financial support.

Mr Richardson said the seriousness of the situation in which Scotland found itself was extremely worrying.

While he was thankful the vaccination programme was under way, he believed the newly-announced restrictions will be in place for some time to come.

"Clearly, the Highland’s high dependency on tourism and hospitality makes the restrictions just as painful, if not more so, for businesses to bear here than elsewhere in the country," he said.

"Covid has blown what would have been a good winter season in the ski areas apart and now there are concerns for the traditional Easter start to the main summer season.

"If ever there was a time for businesses to receive comprehensive, easy-to-access financial support and crystal-clear advice, it is now and this includes businesses that have received little or nothing in the way of support to date – the forgotten.

"But announcing new schemes is one thing. Getting the cash into businesses’ pockets is quite another. Log jams must be removed and the whole process speeded up.

"Closing schools and nurseries places huge strain on working parents who must juggle childcare with often extremely taxing jobs, and it undermines the very foundations of local economies.

"While we know that the Highland’s small employers will be as flexible as possible, this change heaps pressures on workers and firms alike and ministers must find workable solutions."

Funding totalling £4.6 billion announced by the UK government for businesses was welcomed by Highland Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.

"I am particularly pleased that businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors stand to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9000, given their importance to the local economy," he said.

Despite being announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week, however, the Scottish Government has said it is not new funding.

The UK Treasury said the money was likely to come in a future tranche of previously guaranteed funds.

Related story: Applications open for business closure grant scheme

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