Covid Scotland: Tougher restrictions have failed to make 'meaningful difference', business leaders claim

Tougher coronavirus restrictions in Scotland have failed to make a “meaningful difference” to infection levels and are causing “enormous damage” to some sectors, business leaders have claimed.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) spoke out as a poll of its members found almost two thirds (65 per cent) believe the measures in place are no longer proportionate to the risk posed by Omicron.

With more than two fifths warning they could have to cut staff if the restrictions are not eased, AGCC policy director Ryan Crighton said: “The First Minister must announce the end of these damaging restrictions this week.

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“Not doing so places the very survival of many businesses at risk and jobs on the line.”

Business leaders have said restrictions on hospitality in Scotland have made no 'meaningful difference'. Picture: John Devlin
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His comments came as more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the 170 businesses in the north east who were surveyed by AGCC between Friday and Monday said the Scottish Government was not balancing health and economic harms correctly with its Covid-19 policy.

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A total of 42 per cent of firms warned they may have to cut staffing numbers if the restrictions continue beyond January 17, with almost a third (31 per cent) saying there was either a moderate or high risk their business could collapse.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon introduced tougher restrictions after Christmas in a bid to counter the threat of the Omicron variant, with these seeing nightclubs forced to close their doors again, while pubs and other places selling alcohol had to reintroduce table service.

Meanwhile, a cap on the number of people allowed to attend events has impacted football matches, and also led to the cancellation of Hogmanay celebrations.

Ms Sturgeon will update MSPs on the impact of restrictions when Holyrood returns from recess on Tuesday.

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But speaking ahead of that, Mr Crighton called on the Scottish Government to lift the curbs on January 17 or earlier.

He said: “The latest data suggests that the Scottish Government’s gamble with our hospitality sector and high streets has failed, despite weeks of warnings.”

Mr Crighton added: “Two things are now beyond question: one, that the restrictions currently in place are doing enormous damage to a number of business sectors; and two, that they have failed to make any meaningful difference to case numbers in Scotland.”