Covid: UK's inaction and Scottish Government's incompetence is costing us dear – Ian Murray

Café Grande serves light meals and coffees during the day to residents in Bruntsfield.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 7:00 am
Boris Johnson failed to introduce a 'circuit-breaker' lockdown when advised to do so by his own experts (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The popular local café offers a chance for people to have a quick catch-up with a bite to eat, which can be more important than ever during these difficult times when many face isolation.

Last week, the café was preparing to close its doors following the First Minister’s announcement about hospitality restrictions, because it has an alcohol licence. Bookings were cancelled and deliveries were stopped.

Then, 24 hours later, the SNP backtracked, following questions from my colleague Jackie Baillie MSP, and announced that some cafés could remain open.

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It was, as owner Robbie Park said, a “shambles”, and no way to treat business owners or staff.

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Here is a list of Edinburgh pubs and restaurants offering takeaway over the next...

And there are many other firms which have had to shut their doors – I dearly hope temporarily.

While new restrictions are necessary to curb the rocketing number of Covid cases, this confusion was created entirely by Nicola Sturgeon.

The handling of new restrictions imposed by Nicola Sturgeon's Government has been described as a 'shambles' (Picture: Scottish Government/Flickr)

Just imagine if Boris Johnson had made such a pig’s ear of things (as he does regularly). Rightly, the SNP would have been furious.

It is no way to treat people whose livelihoods are on the line.

And while some closures are required, it must come with adequate financial support.

The £41 million announced by the Scottish Government for hospitality firms clearly goes nowhere near far enough, as the industry has made clear.

And what’s even more galling is that it emerged last month there was over £250m-worth of unallocated Covid grants to businesses which have missed out on financial support.

So it’s no use the SNP trying to blame Westminster for this.

If we are to avoid a tidal wave of unemployment and business closures, this financial support for Scotland’s businesses must be delivered.

And if the government can’t do that directly, then the unclaimed funds should be handed to cash-strapped councils.

The small business grant scheme originally had a deadline of March 2021, before the Scottish Government suddenly brought it forward to last July.

As a result, many firms missed out – including a hairdresser in my own constituency who is entitled to it but is now “too late”.

Contrast the shambolic approach by the SNP and the debacle overseen by the Tories in England, with the clear scientific plan put forward by Labour leader Keir Starmer.

He has called for a fully-funded ‘circuit breaker’ in line with the scientific advice.

Yes, that would involve pubs and restaurants closing, but with adequate compensation and clarity so that no business loses out because of the sacrifices we all need to make. It also gives both governments time to fix the failing test-and-trace systems.

The UK Government's Scientific Advisory Committee (Sage) urged a circuit breaker three weeks ago, but Boris Johnson ignored this.

The Welsh First Minister has rightly called on the PM to convene a Cobra meeting so all four UK nations can discuss the next steps.

It’s important that all devolved nations are involved in the decision-making process, as well as mayors of English regions.

Too often in Scotland, we have suffered recently as a result of UK Government inaction and Scottish Government incompetence.

Let’s bring everyone together and work to achieve the best outcome for families, businesses and communities.

And shop local and support local businesses.

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