By Ian McConnell

MORE than one in five companies in and around Glasgow say they could not operate under the current social-distancing rules triggered by the coronavirus crisis and a further 24 per cent do not know if it would be possible.

These findings of a survey of 200 businesses by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce have prompted the business organisation’s chief executive, Stuart Patrick, to highlight the need for continuation of the UK Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.

Mr Patrick, noting many businesses in and around the city would not be able to return swiftly to normal working, warned: “This support is needed, or people will be made redundant.”

The UK Government is, under this job retention scheme, paying 80% of the wages and salaries of furloughed workers up to £2,500 a month.

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About 21% of businesses declared they could not operate under the rule that people must stay two metres apart to avoid passing on the Covid-19 virus. Given the further 24% of businesses saying they did not know if they would be able to operate – because of staff having to work closely together or trading space being tight – Glasgow Chamber noted “almost half of companies…are not confident that they could return to work under current social-distancing rules”.

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Mr Patrick said: “The views of our members show there is a need for greater government policy guidance on how to operate with social-distancing. Largely this is about what is going to be needed for businesses to start reopening in a safe way under social-distancing rules.”

He added: “The [survey] results show there is not going to be a swift return to normal working for many Glasgow businesses. This implies there must be longer-term support for them, which supports the view that tapering of the job retention scheme (JRS) is important. There must be no cliff-edge on JRS, as the Chancellor has said. But it must not be switched off in July – rather we could be talking about well into the summer in Glasgow and in Scotland.”

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Three-quarters of respondents were small and medium-sized firms. Glasgow Chamber noted the breakdown was “broadly representative of the sectors in the city’s economy”, with 26% in business-to-consumer sectors such as tourism, retail and leisure,19% in financial and professional services,15% in construction and manufacturing, 8% in education and health, 8% in creative and media, and 4% in transport.