BUSINESS leaders have warned that the diverging paths that the UK and Scottish governments are taking over easing lockdown restrictions for companies could lead to job losses as Scottish firms are “caught in a vice” between two policies.

While the Scottish Government has been hailed for its handling of the crisis north of the border there has been disquiet in some quarters after differences between timings for reopening businesses emerged between Scotland and England.

Gyms provide one example where, in England, they are due to open this week and in Scotland a date is still to be confirmed.

In day two of our series on the impact of coronavirus on business, it is claimed there will also need to be continued support for smaller businesses, to the point that individual firms affected by outbreaks or those under a local lockdown can access back-up.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “I am concerned that Scottish businesses in particular are caught in this vice of the UK government’s decision to err on the side of confidence building and opening the economy and getting people going back to work, and therefore winding down the support mechanisms versus the Scottish Government’s much more cautious approach to the opening of the economy and what impact does that have on spending decisions."

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The British Chambers of Commerce is due to publish an update on the coronavirus tracker survey today showing about a third of the businesses surveyed said redundancies are now being planned and “the question will be to what extent is that better or worse in Scotland”, Mr Patrick said.

He said: “It is a genuine concern. Is the differential approach in Scotland going to lead to a slower recovery and therefore a higher rate of redundancies? At this stage, we cannot tell, it is too early.

“I think there are things that the Scottish Government can do to try and encourage increasing activity, getting economic activity, because it is about confidence and the reduction of fear.

“For example, the work that VisitScotland is doing to try and encourage staycation activity and some of Fergus Ewing’s talk about growth in the economy, we could hear more of that I think from the Scottish Government, [and] about what is genuinely safe and therefore should be encouraged.”

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Small and medium-sized enterprises have helped with key aspects of supply during the pandemic such as home delivery for people shielding, others are only just now reopening, and others remain closed.

Stuart Mackinnon, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said that as “we look to the future and try to anticipate some of the more negative situations, if we did see an individual business closed down we would be making the case for extra support for support for individual businesses that might need to close their doors again””

He said: “Many of these firms will already have exhausted their cash reserves. In the unfortunate circumstances if there was a local lockdown do we need to see extra help for the firms in those particular areas, and do we need to start to think about what that would look like now before it actually happens."

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Mr Mackinnon added: “At the same time what we can’t forget about is those businesses that haven’t yet managed to reopen their doors and getting the right information to those firms about how they reopen is going to be really important.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said its support for firms exceeds £2.3 billion, adding: “We have invested in supporting jobs and are consultation with business organisations, trades unions and other partners to ensure the economy and vital sectors like tourism and our hospitality industry reopen in a safe and sustainable manner.

“Ministers have urged Scots to support businesses by booking staycations and we want people to enjoy the best of Scotland’s hospitality and tourism sector whilst following the public health guidance. It is critical that we keep transmission of the virus as low as possible. We are clear that, as the virus continues to pose real risks, we need to balance public health concerns with restarting the economy and the need to progress towards a safe and strong recovery.”