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As Lenin famously said: ‘There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen.’

Last week certainly felt like one of the latter, with a head-spinning rate of change throughout the country and world.

At Lochaber Chamber, the reality of our new national situation meant a hectic week dealing with member enquiries, lobbying government on behalf of our businesses, making sure all the current information was available and taking time to talk to our members about what they need.

If you are already a member, we’re delighted to say any renewals due in or after March will not be charged until August and if you are not currently a member, please consider joining now to gain access to a network of assistance and defer payment to August 2020.

An important part of what we are doing is making sure businesses have a voice and representing their views back to government through the Scottish Chambers of Commerce network, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and directly to ministers.

We have had a large number of enquiries and requests for help from our membership. We were pleased to offer chamber members the opportunity to talk directly with the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism last week, when we hosted a conference call meeting with Fergus Ewing MSP and a cross-section of our membership.

Providing members with direct access to government at this time is a crucial role chambers can play in making sure the needs
of business are heard at the highest levels. Businesses from a wide range of sectors put their main issues to the minister to help inform the Scottish Government’s actions to help further.

Key among the many topics discussed were the need for more detail on how furloughing staff will work in practice and how it applies to those in seasonal and variable hours roles.

We have another meeting with the Cabinet Secretary scheduled for the week beginning Monday April 6 and once again invite member businesses to make sure their views are heard.

As well as online advice and information, conference calls and webinars with other chambers, we will be hosting an online ‘employment webinar’ meeting with expert employment lawyer Kirk Tudhope of Ledingham Chalmers Solicitors on Tuesday April 7.

The UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a great help to businesses but there are naturally a lot of questions still to be answered.

We’re looking forward to hearing from Kirk on the practicalities of the new assistance. If you’d like to join us, visit the events section at www.lochaberchamber.co.uk

The chamber is working hard to keep our member businesses up to date with the latest information.

Our Coronavirus Business Advice page is updated daily and we are always available by email and phone if anyone has an urgent query.

Social distancing may have curtailed our physical events but we are still in it together and this week sees the start of our new online Chamber ‘Cuppa and Cake’ get-togethers.

This is new to the team and we are ready for hiccups along the way, but we value the chance to get our members together face to face, even if it is on a screen. Now that we have to be physically distant, it’s even more important to stay socially connected.

Check out our events section for dates and times. We’ve got useful business resources available on our website. If you would like to download our business survival guide to financial assistance, please visit our website at www.lochaberchamber.co.uk where you will also find guides to working from home and managing teams remotely.

If you are in business in Lochaber, we are here for you. Stay safe, stay in touch and stay connected with your Chamber of Commerce.