The importance of our daily bread - comment

It is found in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Scotland's bakeries bring together 'folks from all walks'. Picture: Jon Savage.

In these torrid times of Covid-19, this simple and oft-quoted request is harder to satisfy than ever. For time immemorial, bakers across Scotland have fed their communities with bread, pastries, sweets and savouries. As well providing daily foods, they supply celebration cakes and special creations for weddings, christenings and sporting events as well as memorials.

Three hundred bakery businesses embody their communities across Scotland by bringing folks from all walks together. Who hasn’t inhaled hungrily at the smell of freshly baked bread and seen the smile of children biting into a cream cake? Who hasn’t marvelled at the sight of a sensational wedding cake or felt the hearty warmth of a pie on the terraces?

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Now, the bakery industry, with 12,000 employees across every Scottish town and village, is under greater pressure than ever as daily demand shrinks. An industry survey sadly finds up to eight out of ten workers furloughed and many also absent due to illness.

Smith is chief executive of Scottish Bakers. Picture: Katielee Arrowsmith.

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The steady daily flow of office-goers, site workers picking up their lunchtime pie or sandwiches has been staunched. No longer the hungry passers-by, popping in for a sausage roll, with more than almost half of shops and nearly three quarters of cafes closed.

The impact is not only affecting the shop and café staff and their bakers and cooks, but flour, ingredients and packaging suppliers, cleaners, maintenance staff and delivery drivers. The sad truth is that one in five bakery businesses who have already closed down for the pandemic lockdown fear they may never be able to reopen due to the financial shock.

Concerns

Those that are holding on see trouble if closure conditions are maintained for longer than three months, with one in three fearing their businesses could not survive beyond that time.

Through its representative body Scottish Bakers, the industry welcomes government support during this period of extreme stress. After all, many are small family-owned businesses with limited resources depending as they do on daily demand for their products. Happily, almost three quarters are accessing support to pay furloughed staff and two thirds applying to the small business grant scheme.

Scottish bakers have worked hard across the generations to thrive and serve their communities. However, in its time of greatest need, Scottish Bakers is calling on Holyrood to step up by ensuring their businesses receive the same level of support as others across Britain.

I am challenging First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in an open letter to explain why it is that one bakery business in Scotland is only able to access £25,000 of support when an equivalent in England can access £180,000. We have come to expect our daily bread – let’s support our great Scottish bakers so we can continue to do just that.

Alasdair Smith, chief executive of Scottish Bakers

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