How Scottish businesses have been left wanting by the Spring Statement's 'missed opportunity'

“Once again, Mr Speaker, it is this government delivering for British business,” Rishi Sunak stated as he unveiled the Spring Statement.

But in the wake of the announced measures, which included increasing the employment allowance, not everyone is quite as enthusiastic as the Chancellor – and I have seen no fewer than eight business experts use the phrase “missed opportunity” in their reaction.

They include Alan Thomas, UK chief executive at Simply Business, which provides insurance to small businesses, who form more than 99 per cent of the UK’s private sector.

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Mr Thomas said he believes Mr Sunak should have put such firms “at the heart of our collective recovery”, adding: “Our latest report found that ... the eye-watering cost of Covid-19 to small businesses sits at £109.6 billion. Alarmingly, one in six believe they will never recover financially.

“For the sake of six million UK small businesses, it’s essential that [the UK Government] ease the pressure on struggling self-employed people, in turn helping our communities – and the economy at large – bounce back.”

Mr Sunak did repeatedly say he was looking to help smaller firms, but Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said such companies “are particularly exposed as they have neither the protections or financial support provided to households, nor the negotiating power of larger businesses”.

Mr Patrick was among many to touch on VAT, along with the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, which said it was “disappointed” a return to the 20 per cent rate for the hospitality and tourism industry would go ahead, instead of the organisation’s hoped-for freeze at 12.5 per cent. The trade body said this marked a “bitter blow for hospitality businesses that are only just getting back on their feet as they recover from the pandemic”.

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One study found that the 'eye-watering' cost of Covid-19 to small businesses sits at £109.6 billion. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Businesses are trying to avoid the ultimate “closing time”, but face struggles in areas that also include staff shortages, inflation sitting at a 30-year high, and skyrocketing energy bills. A recent survey in fact found Scottish businesses are battling the fastest cost rises on record

They have much to contend with before the Autumn Budget – and can only hope the Chancellor pays them greater heed then to help them survive, thrive and put innovation centre-stage.

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