24th September 2020

Speaking about the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Winter Economy Plan announced today (24 September), Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:

“This week’s report from the Office for National Statistics makes for grim reading, revealing that the UK economy as a whole is 11.7% smaller than it was pre-lockdown. Some sectors have been particularly hard hit, with accommodation and food services down 60% compared to pre-lockdown measures.

“The support from Government to date, including the furlough scheme, has been welcome and has clearly helped to stave off significant redundancies and further economic downturn. However, what these figures show is that we need a much larger, targeted package of intervention and stimulus measures to kickstart the whole economy and provide lifeline support to those sectors which have been most impacted by the pandemic.

“The Chancellor’s newly-announced Jobs Support Scheme will be welcome news for many businesses who were facing a cliff-edge as the furlough scheme comes to an end. It is important now that businesses are provided with details of how the scheme will work and how they can apply as soon as possible to enable their future planning.

“The extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will also bring welcome relief to those self-employed individuals who were likewise facing a hard winter of reduced demand and income.

“With regards to the extension of the VAT cut for tourism and hospitality, the time has come to stop treating this as a temporary measure and announce a permanent cut in VAT for the sector. This would give the sector parity with our European neighbours and enable long-term economic benefits.

“Following today’s announcements by the Chancellor, the onus is now on Scottish Government to follow suit and deliver clear, targeted support to businesses across Scotland. This should look not only to immediate shoring up of key sectors, but to future growth prospects and the funding of shovel-ready projects across the country to provide much-needed economic stimulus.

“The Chamber will continue to work with its members to understand where support is most needed in the coming months, and to work with our colleagues in Scottish Chambers to ensure that Scottish and UK Governments provide this.

“The stricter restrictions recently announced by Scottish Government do present additional concerns for the survival of businesses in the North Highlands. While the Chancellor’s measures will give some much-needed reassurance to business, we need not just support but clarity from Government to allow us to plan ahead in the weeks and months to come.”

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