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Latest easing of restriction by the Scottish Government does 'nothing to help' thousands of small, local, independent hospitality firms that are vital to Highland communities like cafés, restaurants and pubs according to the Federation of Small Businesses

By Scott Maclennan

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David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB.
David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB.

AN easing of coronavirus restrictions announced this week will do nothing for hundreds of small hospitality businesses across the Highlands.

That was the view of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that, from Monday, limits on numbers attending large outdoor events in Scotland will be lifted.

Restrictions on indoor events and venues that currently limit capacity to 100 for standing events and 200 for seated gatherings are to remain in place until January 24 at least however.

Highlands and Islands development manager for the FSB, David Richardson, said: “Small Highland businesses will be fervently hoping that Scotland has turned a corner in the battle against the coronavirus, and that the announcement from the First Minister about the relaxation of some outdoor event rules is the beginning of the end of the current restrictions. For the fact is that Covid rules place a disproportionate burden on smaller operators, especially with regard to things like vaccine passports.

“So let’s hope that next week’s announcement goes further, for there was nothing to help the many small, local, independent hospitality firms that play such important roles in Highland communities’ lives like cafés, restaurants and pubs.

“Fingers crossed that Omicron is waning, that no new variants appear in 2022, and that trading conditions return to normal soon, but of course lifting the toughest Covid rules doesn’t mean that Scotland’s small business community will return to full strength overnight. Far from it.

“The trade lost over Christmas, combined with the debt accrued by firms over the length of the pandemic, will mean tough business decisions for many in the weeks and months to come.

“Now is the time for the Scottish Government to put local firms at the heart of its recovery plans, recognising that Scotland lost 20,000 small businesses in the first year of this crisis alone.”

Hospitality businesses which lost bookings during the Christmas/New Year period can now apply for grant support from the Scottish Government.

Businesses will receive either £4500 or £6800 depending on their rateable value.

To be eligible businesses must be registered as either a public house, restaurant, café or other licensed premises classed as hospitality such as sports and social clubs. Nightclubs and hotels with bars and restaurants can also apply.

Local authorities have been charged with administering the support and should be in touch with any eligible businesses that received previous grants through them.

Any hospitality business that does not receive a direct email from Highland Council but thinks they are eligible should go to the Scottish Government’s Find Business Support website for guidance.

Related Story – People can return to stadia and concerts from Monday in a boost to the Six Nations rugby, football and live music fans as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lifts restrictions on outdoor events as the daily infection estimates fall short by 20,000

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