My Column

Now is the hour to give firm support

  • Date: Monday 20th April 2020
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The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt far and wide. The outbreak and rapid spread of the virus has disrupted life as we know it and dramatically changed the way we live and work.

Scotland has been in effective lockdown for several weeks now, as the Government attempt to keep people safe and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In that time, our economy has taken a devastating dip. The combination of companies being required to temporarily shut down and people staying home has impacted business - with small, local companies often hit the hardest.

Just last week the Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that the coronavirus lockdown could leave one in 10 people in the UK without a job and the economy crashing by 35% over the summer. A terrifying thought for everyone across Scotland and the UK.

The Government have introduced a number of financial support measures in a bid to protect people’s jobs and the wider economy during this difficult time.

Measures such as the Job Retention Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the option to defer VAT payments have provided a lifeline for many companies who would have otherwise had no option to than to make redundancies or cease trading entirely.

Despite this, the future remains unclear for many businesses who are faced with financial losses which may be too difficult to overcome.

As a society, we must do all that we can during this unprecedented time to support local business in order to help keep the economy afloat.

Many Scottish businesses have been quick to react to social distancing measures and are now operating delivery and takeaway services, so look into what’s available around you.

I appreciate that most people are feeling a financial strain right now and are worried about the future. But if you still have an income, remember to shop local.

Try ordering takeaway from your favourite local restaurant now and again. Check for delivery options at other local shops, such as florists or clothing boutiques.

Another great idea is buying gift cards for later from restaurants, shops, barbers, hairdressers and beauty salons. This gives the business a cash boost while also giving you something to look forward to when things are back up and running.

It’s worth checking in with the businesses you frequently shop with by giving them a call. They may have altered their services to fit the temporary ‘new normal’, such as providing a disinfecting service or selling home schooling supplies.

Despite a tough climate for local businesses, it’s been amazing to see so many Scottish companies are offering their services to help in the fight against coronavirus.

For example, several companies which previously sold alcohol - such as Scottish craft gin makers, McLean’s Gin, Edinburgh-based distillers, Leith Gin, Strathaven gin makers, Inspirited Dry Gin - have used their distilleries to create hand sanitiser which has been donated to those in need.

Social media is a powerful tool and you can support small businesses like these by shouting about the great work they are doing online, sharing links to their websites and inviting friends to their social pages.

In light of current circumstances, your local gym, yoga or dance instructor may now have moved online. You can support them by paying for online classes or by continuing to pay your membership, despite the gym or sports centre having temporarily closed.

This is a very difficult and uncertain time for us all. However, local businesses are essential for our economy. They bring growth and innovation to our communities, provide employment, create entrepreneurship opportunities and support the local economies, communities and neighbourhoods.

For this reason, it’s very important throughout this pandemic to bear in mind the shops, restaurants and salons which are right on our doorsteps. Support them if you can – even if it’s by a cash donation.

Of course, it’s essential to adhere to social distancing measures at all times. So ensure that when you shop or use a service, you do so safely.

I hope that if we look out for ourselves and each other during this time, we will be better equipped to recover from the blows to our economy and get people back in jobs when the pandemic is over.


Now is certainly not the time for political point scoring, but it was interesting to see Scotland’s finance secretary come under attack from all sides throughout last week after getting her own party policy mixed up with that of the UK governments.

The Emergency Business Grant scheme has been seen by many businesses as a potential lifeline, providing up to £25,000 for every property they own.

However, Scottish businesses were left in the lurch as it transpired that the SNP finance secretary confused the bail out for English and Welsh businesses receiving up to £25,000 for each property they own, to Scottish businesses who would receive only one payment of £25,000 - regardless of how many properties they have.

How the holder of our purse strings can get this so spectacularly wrong is incredible. It would be forgivable once, but this support was pledged to Scottish businesses twice within Holyrood.   

A number of businesses broke cover to state they face bankruptcy due to this decision, and there were many more in the background in the same position.

I doubt that the finance secretary was actively trying to mislead parliament. However in these tough times, we need clear and concise information for business owners across the country to access and ensure their survival.

Luckily, through mounting pressure, it was good to see the First Minister and Forbes do a u-turn towards the end of the week, with Scottish businesses now receiving grants on a per venue basis.

However, with each additional property only receiving 75 per cent of what their English counterparts will get, many of our hospitality, leisure and retail businesses will continue to suffer through these troubling times.



Visit Britain’s attempt at releasing an online interactive literary map last week did not go down well, with the book thrown at them from writers across the UK.

Their mistake was textbook - conveniently forgetting to include writers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland within the map.

Excluding literary giants from across the nations might be forgivable, but trying to claim some of the greats as their own was laughable and definitely a step too far for many.

Announcing that Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential English detective, when based on a Scottish teacher of his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - who funnily enough was born in Edinburgh - certainly made me laugh.

To be fair Visit Britain did take it down after the outcry, so let’s just close this chapter and move on.



It’s heartbreaking to see Scotland’s old people are being decimated by COVID-19 within the care home system.

Figures published last week showed that a quarter of all deaths related to Coronavirus took place within a residential home here in Scotland.

With fresh warnings that care staff are struggling to access protective equipment, we can only expect more of the same.

What saddens me further is that due to lockdown, these residents will have passed away alone. The trauma that will be felt by their loved ones, not being able to be there for their final moments, must be so distressing.

Fortunately this is to change, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed close family members will be able to say goodbye to dying relatives under new guidelines. Hopefully his Scottish counterpart Jeanne Freeman will follow his lead in Scotland.



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