Coronavirus Scotland: Business leaders warn of 'final straw' as Edinburgh set to remain in Level 2 for a month
Business leaders have warned the decision to keep Edinburgh in Level 2 restrictions could be the “final straw” for some firms as the country goes from “lockdown to slowdown”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paused plans to ease Covid restrictions in much of the country, including the Capital, with the levels not due to be reviewed again until June 28.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it amounted to “two steps forward but one step back” for its members with “patience and cash reserves in short supply”.
While it had been hoped that most of Scotland would be able to move to Level 1, Ms Sturgeon said the country was still at a “delicate and fragile point” in the battle with Covid-19.
The decision means some businesses in Edinburgh and Midlothian, such as soft play centres, will not be able to reopen as planned.
Level 1 restrictions would also have meant eight people from three households could meet inside public spaces while, outdoors, the limit would have increased to 12 people from 12 households.
It would also see 100 people – rather than 50 – able to attend weddings and funerals.
Areas including East and West Lothian, will, however, move to Level 1 from midnight on Saturday.
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “Firms and communities will be frustrated that progress has stalled.
“We’ve gone from lockdown to slowdown, and patience and cash reserves are in short supply.
“From the start of July, the furlough scheme will begin to get wound down but it looks like businesses in Scotland will still face substantial trading restrictions.
“This could be the final straw for many local operators, and decision-makers in Edinburgh and London must avoid this crunch point.
“We need to get urgent financial help to firms who took on workers in anticipation of greater freedoms but now can’t furlough these employees.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium,
said the “thrust of the easing is undoubtedly encouraging” but many retailers rely on the “economic eco-system that office workers provide”.
“Their long awaited return is vital to bringing back the shopper footfall and energy that is desperately needed, especially in our city centres.”
Ms Sturgeon warned that a significant number of people have not yet received their jag.
She said: “This is a key and difficult moment. We do remain on the right track over all.
"I remain confident that - with cautious, albeit difficult decisions now - we will enjoy much greater normality over the summer and beyond.”
Ms Sturgeon confirmed that Scotland’s R Number has raised above one, and warned that the UK could be at the start of a third wave.
City council leaders have asked people to continue to stick with the guidelines.
Council Leader Adam McVey said: “I know people across the city continue to do a brilliant job to follow the guidance to help steer Edinburgh forward out of lockdown and I know people understand the need to stay in Level Two due to recent increases in transmissions.
"With cases rising in some parts of the city we’ve got to make sure we go at the right pace rather than risk stalling progress further.
"Even with this slight slowing down of our reopening, I’m very pleased that we’re still on the right track.”