Business leaders are calling on the Scottish and UK governments to work together as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means many firms are starting 2022 in a “precarious situation”.
Stephen Leckie, the new president of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), noted the hospitality trade had been hit by a “deluge of cancellations” over the festive period as Covid restrictions were tightened in a bid to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
These have seen nightclubs in Scotland forced to close again, with premises serving alcohol having to bring in table service only and people are not permitted to drink at the bar.
While the Scottish Government has made some financial support available to firms, Leckie said many are awaiting payouts as councils – which are responsible for handing out the grants – shut down over the holiday period.
He said this has left bosses and their staff feeling “uneasy” and “living with trepidation about what may lie ahead”.
In his new year message, the SCC president insisted Scotland’s business community and the economy are “incredibly resilient and will rise to any and all obstacles put in front of them”.
But Leckie, also chief executive of the Crieff Hydro group of hotels and chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “As we battle with the new Omicron wave of infections, a return to greater levels of restrictions and a potential economic slowdown, this changeable situation will leave many businesses in a precarious situation in the early days of 2022.
“Businesses in hospitality who suffered a deluge of cancellations in the lead up to Christmas have started to claim the financial support made available from the Scottish Government, but many await payouts as council offices close over the festive period, leaving many employers and employees uneasy and living with trepidation about what may lie ahead.
“This is why it is more important than ever that not only the Scottish and UK government work closely together to tackle the threat of the virus, but that they both work in partnership with business and industry to safeguard the economy, jobs and livelihoods which are once again under threat.”
While he said there will be “challenges” for business in the next 12 months, he added there could also be “enormous opportunities” – particularly for those firms that manage to successfully adapt to the “rapidly changing world around them”.
He said while the latest round of coronavirus restrictions “create yet another bump in the already rocky road ahead for businesses and our economy”, he believes 2022 will bring “a return to pre-pandemic levels of growth before the end of this year”.