Scottish firms confident about return to normality by end of 2021 - but more support urged

Bosses of small businesses are highly optimistic their businesses will return to pre-Covid normality by the end of the year, according to a new survey.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 7:00 am
More than two thirds of bosses of small firms believe their businesses could get back to normal by the end of 2021. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

But the shorter-term picture is not quite so optimistic, prompting calls to ensure firms have the support they need to survive.

Business financial platform Tide has found 64 per cent of small business leaders with up to 50 staff agreed it was likely that, with the successful vaccine rollout, their company could get back to normal before the end of 2021.

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That said, only about a quarter expect to see their firm’s income increase over the next three months – and a fifth expect to have to make redundancies once the furlough scheme ends. A further 21 per cent are unsure if they will be able to keep people on.

Almost a third of small firms said extending the furlough scheme would be crucial to their business’ survival. It echoes calls from many quarters to prolong the initiative – officially known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – beyond the current end date of April 30.

Tide chief executive Oliver Prill hailed the positive effect of the vaccination programme on the nation’s mood, saying it was “heartening” to see optimism return to small businesses.

But he expressed concern over the proportion of firms that believe they will need to reduce staffing once the furlough scheme ends.

“Considering the number of people employed by the small business community, such redundancies could have significant ramifications," he said.

Tide also found a third of smaller firms would like to see an extension to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and a further third would like an extension to business tax breaks.

The latest survey shows “the need for strong long term as well as short-term support”, Mr Prill said. He said he would like to see, in addition to the Chancellor extending the furlough scheme, the UK Government and the business banking industry ensuring there was a variety of options available to firms needing capital in coming months and years.

“This is something Tide is focused on, with the development of a funding network over the coming months,” he said.

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