A Nairn couple have revealed their heartache after the business they invested their savings in had to be closed down on the cusp of a major relaunch due to the coronavirus crisis.
Their plight comes as a leading economist warned the government has three months to contain virus, or job losses in many sectors could become permanent as the country struggles to recover.
Like thousands of tourism operators around Scotland, Anika and Andreas Schulz have closed their doors to business indefinitely.
The German born couple, who bought Cawdor House bed and breakfast in Nairn four years ago, reluctantly decided to cease trading on Thursday.
Despite their insurers warning they would not be covered for losses at that point, they felt it was the responsible thing to do to dissuade guests from travelling to the region.
Then the official notice to close came from the government on Monday.
Asked about the prospect of a long term travel ban, Mrs Schulz: “It would have a huge impact. We are down to zero income at the moment.
“We can survive for a couple of months without any income but not very long, as we invested a lot in a new cafe, in a new wheelchair-accessible room. We really need income coming in now.”
She added: “We are grateful for the government grants that have been made available.”
They have applied for a £10,000 one-off rates relief subsidy offered to smaller businesses.
It has been a particularly frustrating time for the couple, who have invested heavily in upgrading facilities and were due to launch their new cafe next month. The launch has now been postponed.
The builders have also reluctantly had to halt their work on the cafe due to official guidance about the potential risk of contracting the virus.
The Schulzs are far from alone in the situation and a leading economist has warned that thousands of permanent Scottish job losses could be inevitable.
Highlands-based Tony Mackay predicts the government has three months to overpower the pandemic to protect Scotland’s economy in the long term.
He said: “Hopefully, most of those job losses are just temporary job and people will get their jobs back in the summer.
“But if that doesn’t happen, if this carries on for more than three months, then I think many of these losses will turn into permanent job losses.”
As home working becomes the new norm, high streets have been emptied, and restaurants and bars have closed along with most businesses. Oil, fishing and tourism and even the whisky sector have all suffered.
Based on analysis of the impact of the 2008 global financial crash, the pace of recovery hinges on the duration and depth of damage that coronavirus inflicts.
Mr Mackay added: “For the short term, the economy generally recovers very well. So, 12 months later we’re back up to where we were before. But the longer it goes on the more the job losses become permanent.”
Most businesses, including the Schulzs, have welcomed emergency government funding to pay wages and cover rates relief, but the Scottish Chambers of Commerce says the financial support needs to flow to businesses quicker – and that more may be required depending on how things unfold.