Level four ‘will hit small businesses disproportionately hard’

The Federation of Small Businesses said the changes are 'shutting the door' on independent firms during their busiest time of year.

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The introduction of level-four restrictions will hit smaller firms “disproportionately hard”, business leaders have warned. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the toughest possible rules have been placed on 11 council areas – mostly in the west of Scotland.

Non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and gyms will have to close for at least three weeks from 6pm on Friday.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland (FSB) said the latest changes were “shutting the door” on smaller firms during their busiest time of year.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said the the Scottish Government’s decision has resulted in “despair and anger amongst independent shopkeepers, publicans, restaurateurs, barbers and beauticians”.

He added: “Ministers must provide a cast iron guarantee to our small business community that they will be given an opportunity to trade normally ahead of Christmas, especially when many big businesses face few operating restrictions.  

‘The cards are now stacked against Scottish smaller businesses, and that’s why we’ve got to see people support their local firms as they grapple with these restrictions.’

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair

“The cards are now stacked against Scottish smaller businesses, and that’s why we’ve got to see people support their local firms as they grapple with these restrictions. That means buying vouchers in advance, seeking out local businesses online, and using firms in their community whenever they can.

“Scotland’s eventual recovery from this crisis will be reliant upon local businesses, but the pandemic has taken a disproportionate economic toll on neighbourhood firms. We’d ask Ministers to consider whether every measure is necessary, especially those hitting independent shops.”

The Scottish Conservatives said it was important businesses were able to access all the funding support available to them.

Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “Today’s news will come as an immediate hammer blow for thousands of small businesses in the affected areas, who have fought since March to keep their heads above water. Their concerns must be addressed head on.

“It’s clear that the Scottish Government has funding in reserve from the UK Government that must now urgently find its way to those businesses who will be so severely impacted by these new restrictions.”

Restaurant owner Domenico Crolla is concerned about his business. STV News
Restaurant owner Domenico Crolla is concerned about his business.

Domenico Crolla, who owns Oro restaurant in Shawlands, told STV News: “I don’t want to cry on camera but financially it’s very difficult. 

“We’re having to think how is this going to play out in a year’s time.

‘I don’t want to cry on camera but financially it’s very difficult.’

Domenico Crolla, Owner of Oro in Shawlands

“Hopefully it’ll be over soon and we can just get back to normality but something tells me this could be going on for another six or eight months. 

“Even with a vaccine it could still be around for a few years. I think at some point we have to just accept it is what it is and get on with it because we can’t keep doing this forever.”

Scotland’s biggest shopping centre said measures would be in place to follow the new government guidelines.

Peter Beagley, centre director at Braehead in Renfrewshire, said: “Braehead will remain open for essential retail stores only from 6pm on Friday, November 20. 

“In line with what the government has decided, our stores will trade normally until that time. Some of our cafes and restaurants will also be able to provide a carry-out service.

“Braehead plays an important role in the local community and we will continue to provide access through the centre to vital services such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

“Braehead is a safe place to visit, as we have measures in place that are in line with Scottish Government guidelines.

“These include limiting the amount of shoppers in the centre at a time; automatic hand sanitisers throughout the centre; social distancing; a one-way system for getting around the centre and enhanced cleaning regimes along with visitors and staff wearing face coverings that protect everyone in the current coronavirus pandemic.”

Addressing Parliament, Sturgeon confirmed that Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian will move into level four for three weeks.

Announcing the changes at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Sturgeon said putting 11 councils into level four was intended to be “short and sharp”.

She told MSPs: “I know people are frustrated that other restrictions have remained in place longer than planned.

“But level four is intended to be short and sharp. And in this situation, it is specifically intended to have an impact in advance of Christmas and the most challenging winter period.”