Hundreds of businesses across the Scottish capital are braced for their most challenging summer season to date with the cancellation of the city’s festivals.

A string of summer festivals in Edinburgh have been cancelled for the first time in more than 70 years following concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Festival, Festival Fringe, Art Festival, International Book Festival, and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will no longer take place as planned in 2020.

READ MORE: Edinburgh’s Wemyss House sold for £5m

Together, the five August festivals comprise more than 5,000 events across Scotland's capital each summer featuring more than 25,000 artists, writers and performers from 70 countries and attracting audiences of 4.4 million.

Alistair Dickson, partner at RSM, the audit, tax and consulting firm, said many smaller companies would be unable to recoup their losses.

He said: “To cancel the Edinburgh Festival now is a nightmare blow to the hoteliers, restauranteurs and retailers reliant on the tourist trade. Businesses are really hoping and expecting to be able to host tourists by then.

“This is a period that can heavily subsidise the rest of the year, in what is already a very difficult time for the industry.

“There is government relief for some, but many businesses won’t qualify due to the nature of their services.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The news that Edinburgh’s five August festivals will not go ahead this year is hugely disappointing for all involved with Scotland’s tourism industry and for the many hundreds of businesses in Edinburgh from across all sectors of the economy who look forward to the August programme and enjoy many extended benefits from it.

 “It is however the right decision to take for many reasons that are well documented but most importantly, protecting the health and well-being of our nation.

"From recent conversations I have had with the key stakeholders who are involved in delivering Edinburgh’s festivals, I know that there remains huge ambition, resilience, determination and a will to deliver these world famous events which bring people from across the world and the UK to experience our warm welcome, culture, comedy and spectacle when the time is right.”

UK manufacturers had their worst month for eight years in March as the economy was ground down by efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus across the world.

Manufacturing output fell to its worst extent since July 2012, according to the data from IHS Markit and CIPS.

READ MORE: Thousands of Scottish pubs rush to lodge rates appeals amid virus fears

The closely watched Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 47.8 in March, down from 51.7 the month before. If the sector scores below 50 it means that it is contracting.

Direct disruption from Covid-19 created a perfect storm, along with lower market confidence and companies shutting down to slow production and new business, the survey found.

Meanwhile employment in the manufacturing sector fell at its fastest rate since July 2009, shortly after the financial crisis.
"The effects were felt across most of manufacturing, with output falling sharply in all major sectors except food production and pharmaceuticals.

The transport sector, which includes already-beleaguered car-makers, suffered the steepest downturn," said Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit.

He added: "With restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus expected to stay in place for some time, expectations of further economic disruption and uncertainty meant business optimism slumped to a series-record low. However, on a slightly more positive note, manufacturers still expect to see output higher in one year's time."

Duncan Brock, at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), said that closed borders, big delays to shipping and reluctant clients led to a massive decline and pushed business optimism to historical lows.

"The manufacturing sector was knocked sideways by the impact of Covid-19 and into contraction territory, experiencing some of the most challenging trading conditions since PMI records began," Mr Brock said.

Lucky Strike and Benson & Hedges maker British American Tobacco (BAT) has become the latest firm to offer hope of a Covid-19 vaccine after revealing a breakthrough with its tobacco plant technology.

The UK-headquartered group said its US-based biotech business has been working on a potential vaccine for Covid-19, which it believes could offer up to 3 million doses a week from June.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Surely delaying single-market exit can no longer be divisive, as coronavirus pandemic overshadows Brexit?

BAT said the vaccine is now in pre-clinical testing and has the potential to offer a safer and faster way to develop vaccines than traditional methods.

It is being developed by its US firm Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP) using tobacco plant technology.

BAT said if successful and with the "right partners and support from government agencies" it could manufacture between 1 million and 3 million doses a week.

The group is currently in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration and UK's Department of Health and Social Care with hopes to partner with government agencies to bring the vaccine to clinical studies.

Dr David O'Reilly, director of scientific research at BAT, said: "Vaccine development is challenging and complex work, but we believe we have made a significant breakthrough with our tobacco plant technology platform and stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against Covid-19.

"We fully align with the United Nations plea, for a whole-of-society approach to combat global problems."

The firm said KBP - bought by its US subsidiary Reynolds American Inc in 2014 - has been looking at alternative uses of tobacco plants for some time, including plant-based vaccines.

It is claimed it was one of the few firms that helped develop an effective treatment for Ebola in 2014.

It added that KBP would be developing the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.

Shops across Scotland are closing. Newspaper sales are falling. But we’ve chosen to keep our coverage of the coronavirus crisis free because it’s so important for the people of Scotland to stay informed during this difficult time.

However, producing The Herald's unrivalled analysis, insight and opinion on a daily basis still costs money, and we need your support to sustain our trusted, quality journalism.

To help us get through this, we’re asking readers to take a digital subscription to The Herald. You can sign up now for just £2 for two months.

If you choose to sign up, we’ll offer a faster loading, advert-light experience – and deliver a digital version of the print product to your device every day. Click here to help The Herald: Thankyou, and stay safe.