Business briefing at 5pm

Tourism businesses urged to let Visit Scotland know about the impact of the coronavirus on livelihoods

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Tourism businesses urged to report impact

Tourism businesses are being urged to let VisitScotland know about the impact of the coronavirus.

The national tourism organisation and influential lobby partner for the multi-billion pound sector, is said to be ‘closely monitoring’ the situation and providing advice and support to businesses from hotels to B&Bs, restaurants and pubs, which have all been forced to close their doors just weeks before the season curtain-raiser.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance has called on businesses to feed into surveys by VisitScotland so it can make representations at the highest level.

A survey is due to close at noon on Monday and can be completed at https://visitscotland.researchfeedback.net/s.asp?k=158462247264

Specsavers keeps an eye on key workers

Specsavers stores across Scotland will now only be offering emergency and essential eye care following a government directive.

Routine eye tests will not be carried out until further notice with the emphasis now on opticians supporting those most in need, the retail chain said.

‘While we are no longer permitted to provide routine eye examinations until further notice we will remain open for care, particularly for key workers,’ said Specsavers.

‘Our desire is to continue to provide essential and urgent services to the communities we serve, as well as online and telephone advice for those who need it.’

People needing an urgent consultation are advised to call first as store opening times and services vary, although key workers can still walk-in for immediate advice.

Virus lockdown hits island flights and airports

Vital airports and flights from Oban to the islands are among the casualties of the coronavirus lockdown.

All general aviation traffic from Oban Airport and airports at Coll and Colonsay have been suspended to avoid any risk of spreading COVID-19.

Read the full story at https://www.obantimes.co.uk/2020/03/26/virus-lockdown-hits-island-flights-and-airports/

 Council ‘inundated,’ says business group 

Argyll and Bute Council has been ‘inundated’ following the coronavirus lockdown, according to the Oban business improvement group.

Bid4Oban told members: ‘The council’s primary focus is on public health and ensuring the vulnerable in our community are safe and looked after.

‘They are also focusing on supporting the business community and information for businesses is being loaded onto the council website.’

The council plans to administer all claims for financial support from the business community and some ‘may’ be done automatically via the non-domestic rates system (NDR), Bid4Oban has advised.

Boost for buses

The Scottish Government will continue to provide bus operators with  financial assistance to keep alive essential services and support local firms.

The pledge follows the drop in bus passengers – put as high as 81 per cent for concessionary travellers alone – during the last fortnight.

Bus operators will continue to be reimbursed for concessionary travel and receive grant payments at the levels forecast prior to COVID-19.

The government typically spends more than £260 million every year in supporting bus services in Scotland.

Fishing industry nets £5m to stay afloat – MSP

The seafood sector is to receive an initial package of more than £5 million of support from the Scottish Government.

Around 650 seafood fishing companies are reportedly suffering from the collapse of markets for Scottish catches such as langoustine, prawns and crab.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: ‘There is huge amount of worry and concern here given the near total collapse of markets as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The industry is vitally important and this support is essential.’

However, John Robins of Animal Concern, commented: ‘£5m is not going to go very far. All we are asking is that this public money is spent wisely and used to support smaller, more environmentally-friendly members of the fisheries industry and not given to multinationals.’

Distillery lends a hand to sanitiser

The Isle of Harris Distillery has provided high-strength alcohol to make much-needed hand sanitiser for the community.

As well as being a key ingredient in spirit-making, high-strength alcohol is also used to make hand sanitiser.

Sanitisers made by A.S Apothecary and Essence of Harris are now
being distributed for free to local care homes, vulnerable people, community shops, NHS workers and other vital services in Harris.

A version is available to buy online from www.asapoth.com with proceeds used to cover manufacturing costs.

Simon Erlanger, MD of Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd, said its team was ‘very pleased’ to support the local initiatives.

Whisking up more hand sanitiser?

The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) is to launch an online portal to help with the supply of hand sanitiser to health and social services, emergency services and local communities across the UK.

A number of Scotch Whisky producers can supply high-strength alcohol or make it themselves.

The SWA has worked closely with the authorities, including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Health & Safety Executive, to get the green light from regulators to follow World Health Organisation guidelines in the production of hand sanitiser.

Scotch Whisky producers are now being invited to submit details to the portal. It is expected to go live by 5pm today at www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/insights/coronavirus