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The Scottish travel and aviation industry is facing ‘unprecedented’ challenges with growing concerns about redundancies and business viability, business leaders have said.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has now written to the Scottish Government with a raft of ‘key asks’ to help the sector survive.
Scotland has seen important air routes ‘lost,’ passenger numbers plunging and self-isolation rules deterring travel, it said.
The plea from the 12,000-strong business network, includes commitments around business support, quarantine rules, testing and air passenger duty.
Charandeep Singh, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Despite the best efforts of our members to keep trading and retain jobs, the lack of direct financial support and the tightening of restrictions is making the trading environment exceptionally challenging.
‘The industry is facing unprecedented challenges, including a drop in demand which will impact employment and business viability.
‘We need to step up our efforts and do everything that we can to safeguard these vital businesses and protect the talent and expertise of employees in the industry.
‘An immediate support package from the Scottish Government to support business and employment costs is needed now to provide relief for the sector.’
Joanne Dooey, president of Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said: ‘Scotland is a small country which needs its connectivity to the rest of the globe.
‘We have already lost important air routes. If this continues to happen, it will be catastrophic for the Scottish economy. We need support from the Scottish Government quickly to save our businesses.’
The list of asks from the SCC includes:
Business Support: provide an immediate support package to cover overhead costs and support employment costs.
Quarantine: avoid blanket quarantines for inbound/outbound travellers and adopt regionalised approach.
Testing: increase focus on developing and delivering testing capacity and capabilities with Scottish airports, to boost consumer confidence and reduce passenger requirement to self-isolate.
Air Passenger Duty: review this policy position afresh in partnership with the UK Government to reduce APD as a mechanism to boost consumer confidence.
Collaboration: continue working with the UK Government, with specific focus on establishing an “international standard” for self-isolation, testing and travel corridors.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it fully understood the aviation industry’s concerns and would continue to explore whether there is a safe alternative to quarantine.
However, it said the risk to public health must be minimised and that the sector acknowledged this during the ongoing constructive engagement.
A spokesperson said: ‘ We are not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection – people in the early stages of incubation of the virus could test negative and go on to develop the virus and spread it.
‘There are a number of complex logistical and clinical considerations to be resolved, and the Scottish Government and industry agree any potential impacts to existing testing capacity must be carefully considered.
‘However, we continue to engage with airport representatives on how testing at airports could work and to assess and understand the impact on public health.
‘As part of our business support package, which now exceeds £2.3 billion, we have provided business rates relief for aviation, airports and ground-handling providers.’
CAPTION: Charandeep Singh, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.