Scotland: Changes will hit smallest traders hardest

The First Minister has this afternoon outlined a range of changes to local coronavirus levels in Scotland, with much of west central Scotland faced with the toughest level of restrictions which will result in the closure of many independent shops, restaurants, cafes and gyms for at least three weeks.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland has warned these changes will hit smaller firms disproportionately hard.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Today’s changes shut the doors of thousands of smaller Scottish firms at their busiest time of year, resulting in despair and anger amongst independent shopkeepers, publicans, restaurateurs, barbers and beauticians.

“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. 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 First Minister outlined a new package of support for businesses. While this follows FSB representations about firms and the self-employed that have been excluded from support, the small business campaign group remains concerned that the help appears insufficient.

Andrew McRae said: “Businesses now facing restrictions should apply for the government help to which they’re entitled. But the Scottish Government’s current scheme doesn’t provide support for firms indirectly hit, like the baker that supplies the restaurant trade or the craft jeweller who provides stock for independent shops. That’s why we’re pleased to see the FM open up new funding to help those indirectly hit, though we have questions about the scale, design and pace of this help.

“In the run up to Christmas, Ministers must ensure all self-employed people and small businesses hit by their measures are given adequate help. On this front the job is still half finished.”