Scottish business cannot allow insufficient Budget support - comment

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone famously says in The Godfather Part: III.

It’s a sentiment Scottish businesses will be all-too-familiar with since the onset of the pandemic, having constantly jumped out of the frying pan of various lockdowns into the fire of newer hurdles as we prepare to cross the threshold into 2022, including the uncertain menace of the Omicron variant and ongoing supply-chain and staffing issues.

A constant influx of data shows the scale of the problem; a study published yesterday by PwC and the Local Data Company, for example, revealed that one in ten chain shops in Scotland is still closed six months after the lockdown in the first half of 2021, and about 100 have closed their doors for good.

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Edinburgh’s Princes Street alone is home to vast swathes of shuttered shop fronts. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

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The report also found that the beleaguered high street took “the brunt” of closures – and I’m aware from my own visits and those of people I know to Edinburgh’s Princes Street that the sight of vast swathes of now-shuttered shop fronts, the interiors dark and silent in sharp contrast to the bright lights and chatter of festive shoppers and revellers nearby, is enough to dissuade more visits into town.

Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale has called for the Budget to “supercharge the engine of growth and support the sector over the coming months” as the organisation unveiled dwindling footfall figures.

Looking beyond retail, the dramatic hampering effect of the pandemic is evidenced by the Scottish Government itself recently revealing that the estimated number of businesses north of the Border fell by nearly 20,000 between March 2020 and March 2021.

The Federation of Small Businesses on the back of that wrote to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes calling for the Budget to be “designed specifically to help smaller businesses finally turn the corner” after suffering “significant setbacks” over the last two years. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has made a similar plea.

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In another line from the third instalment of The Godfather, Michael Corleone says: “You want to do business with me, I will do business with you.”

Scottish firms will hope their role in serving as the cogs on which a lot of the Scottish economy and society turns, will get what they are in need of today.

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