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The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says it has received a flood of enquiries from business worried about the impact of the recent tightening of Covid lockdown restrictions.
And this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there would be no changes to the current tier 4 lockdown measures introduced last week, which will stay in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the middle of February.
In addition, Barra and Vatersay would moved into lockdown from just after midnight on Wednesday following a sharp increase in infection rates. The rest of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will remain in level three.
Schools across Scotland will also continue to use remote learning until at least the middle of February except in the case of vulnerable children and those of key workers.
During an update to Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said that although lockdown appears to be having an impact on case numbers, transmission of the virus remains too high to relax restrictions.
Nobody who lives in an area under lockdown should leave or remain outside their home except for an essential purpose like caring responsibilities, outdoor exercise and work that cannot be done from home.
These measures will be kept under consideration and Parliament will be updated following a review by the Cabinet on February 2.
Ms Sturgeon commented: ‘Any relaxation of lockdown while case numbers remain high, even though they might be declining, could quickly send the situation into reverse.
‘We believe that the lockdown restrictions – and the sacrifices everyone continues to make – are beginning to have an impact. However, it is important to be cautious.
‘I continue to be very grateful to people across the country for their patience and resilience in the face of this extraordinary challenge.
‘At the moment, lockdown is the best way of keeping each other safe, as vaccination continues. It is how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.’
However, there was a warning from David Richardson, FSB Highlands and Islands Development Manager, who told the Lochaber Times of the deluge of enquiries the organisation had received recently as lockdown rules tightened from Boxing Day onwards.
‘Judging from the many enquiries that I have received from Highland FSB members, the attention of those businesses that must now cease trading or further restrict trading activities will quickly turn to where and when they can get the financial help and support from government that they will need to survive,’ said Mr Richardson.
‘Many will undoubtedly find that their businesses are ineligible, or that funds that could help them survive are yet to be launched, and they will also find that they have joined a long queue of businesses already in this position.
‘If we want to avoid the possibility of mass business closures across Scotland, all possible stops must be pulled out to get more money out of the door and into struggling firms’ hands now, before it’s too late.’