LORD Willie Haughey, the founder of one of the country’s most successful global enterprises, has told how he has sustained his business through coronavirus and called for continued support for the worst-hit industries in Scotland.

The former Celtic director said Westminster and Holyrood responded well to the pandemic but that sectors including hospitality, aviation and tourism should be supported in the longer term, and that pushing a national construction programme can be a way to reboot the economy and create jobs.

The high-profile businessman who helped save Celtic from going bust with Fergus McCann in 1994 also said football clubs that are at the heart of their communities should be helped back onto their feet post-Covid by government.

Lord Haughey, who was able to grow his Glasgow-headquartered business through two previous economic downturns, said: “If we lay a rule down on a company that restricts that trade, then we must help them.”

The businessman said that he increased turnover and staff numbers more than 20 years ago when the country faced high unemployment.

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He says he can’t quite pinpoint how, “but we did grow, and we grew substantially in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“Then obviously we had the second phase in 1992. Some companies looked to outsource some of their services, and again, because of that, we had a kind of quantum leap.

“Then the next big event was 2007, 2008. Up until now, up until Covid, that was the one that everyone felt, there was a kind of shockwave throughout the world.

“In fact, it’s the only thing we can compare with Covid.

“Again, I think a lot of big companies then decided they’ll look at headcount, just the way they are just now, so we were fortunate that we were seen as a company where you can outsource your problems.”

He said: “Through those years, we were growing substantially. I’ve no doubt that the change in policy in relation to having direct labour, to have indirect labour helped greatly in that time.”

It stood the company in good stead for coronavirus, but it is the refrigeration and facilities management arm that has been helping keep supermarkets running that has aided the firm through this crisis.

The Labour peer said: “We’re fortunate that in the sector we’re in that we’ve got 14,000 people worldwide, and we only have a few hundred that are furloughed.”

He said 95 per cent of all its work is in supermarkets.

“Within City Facilities Management globally, we’re hoping not to pay anyone off.”

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He said: “We’ve always got to be optimistic, but being optimistic, we shouldn’t shy away from the challenges.

“The best way to get out of a crisis is absolutely to have your finger on the pulse in relation to the size of the problem.

“Let’s not pretend that this is not a huge problem. It’s only then, by admitting the size of the problem, can we actually help to get out of the crisis. That’s not being pessimistic, that’s being optimistic. Let’s deal in the facts.”

Lord Haughey, who owns a small hotel, said: “I think that no one should be upset if the government continues to help the hospitality industry. I think that we would all be behind that.

“When your trade is restricted by a government ruling, then the government should help, and I definitely think for bars and restaurants and hotels, and the airline and tourist industry, I think support for them will have to go on a bit longer when support for the rest of us has been taken away, which is fine.”

Football should also be supported, he said, adding “90% of the people, especially in Scottish football, are barely surviving”.

He added: “One thing I would say is that for the Scottish Government, we have to build ourselves out of this problem, with infrastructure projects, housing projects and let’s fix problems that we’ve been talking about for years, and at the same time, kickstart the economy.”