Covid in Scotland: SNP and Tory governments need to work together to help the economy before its too late – Daniel Johnson MSP

Dread and deja vu are what we are all feeling as we brace ourselves for Omicron.

By Daniel Johnson
Monday, 20th December 2021, 4:55 am
Even before the Omicron Covid variant, retailers were suffering with footfall on high streets down significantly (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Even before the Omicron Covid variant, retailers were suffering with footfall on high streets down significantly (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Will the kids go back to school in January? What kind of Christmas will we be allowed to have? What rules do I need to follow and when? Anxiety and stress that we hoped might be behind us.

This new variant is much more infectious than what we’ve seen before. In a fortnight, it’s gone from a handful of cases to the majority of Covid infections. We need to take steps to protect the vulnerable and prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed. But that doesn't make things any easier.

This sense of anxiety, dread and deja vu is even worse for anyone running a shop, cafe, bar or restaurant. Inconvenience and cancelling plans might be difficult for us but for small business owners it directly impacts their livelihoods and their employees.

What they needed was clear advice, rules and support, both practical and financial. What the last two weeks have brought are mixed messages between government and Public Health Scotland and guidance that isn't quite law but we’re told to follow. This comes alongside a barney between the First Minister, keen to find new grievances, and a Chancellor who was too busy in sunny California to deal with the latest Covid crisis.

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It's not good enough. We don’t have time for accusations, we all just want governments to get on with what needs to be done.

Christmas is a vital time of year for local businesses on local highstreets. Many if not most need sales to double at Christmas to fund them through the rest of the year. All too often politicians seem to think that 10-20 per cent dips in trade can be brushed off. The reality is that for most businesses a 10 per cent drop in trade pushes them into the red. Even before Omicron, it was estimated that footfall was down by a fifth.

The new year was always going to be tough for many. But new restrictions and a lack of support will mean To Let boards appearing up and down our local shopping streets. These aren't just businesses, they are important elements of our city and neighbourhoods. If they go, they will take jobs with them and undermine communities. They won't be restored easily and the only winners will be online retailers and coffee shop chains.

But the real question is, why after two years of this are we still starting with a blank sheet of paper to deal with the latest wave? Why have we not got a clearer set of rules, so we know what to expect and what to plan for? Why after £14bn of additional Covid funding in Scotland do we not have better support in place when new restrictions are required?

This virus is not going away. We need to build resilience so we know what is expected and so that support is offered when required. We want governments in Holyrood and Westminster that get on with what needs to be done rather than trying to blame one another.

Enough is enough. Both our governments need to stop the petty point-scoring and pull together to support the Scottish economy before it is too late.

Daniel Johnson is Labour & Co-op MSP for Edinburgh Southern

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