BUSINESS leaders have called for a dedicated Eat Out to Help Out scheme for Aberdeen as the city strives to recover from the country’s first major local lockdown.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce are among those to be pushing for an extension of the UK discount scheme in which diners received a 50 per cent discount up to £10 at registered restaurants between Monday to Wednesday.

It was designed to help kick-start the hospitality industry after coronavirus and has been hailed a “roaring success”.

Now a poll conducted by the FSB has found four out of five businesses in Aberdeen would support a specific Eat Out to Help Out scheme for the city.

The FSB survey comes as restrictions on hospitality firms are lifted in the city and the UK-wide discount eating scheme draws to a close.

READ MORE: Aberdeen lockdown: 5,000 jobs 'at risk', businesses 'disappointed and surprised'

At the height of the tense three-week lockdown Aberdeen City Council’s co-leader Douglas Lumsden said 5,100 workers across 70 companies were at risk of redundancy and that the area had been “disproportionately affected by Covid-19”.

David Groundwater, FSB development manager for Aberdeen, said: “This snap poll clearly shows a majority of firms in Aberdeen are in favour of new help for the city’s eateries. And no wonder when the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a huge success across the UK, but Aberdeen locals and firms simply haven’t had an opportunity to benefit.

“Aberdonians should be allowed to have a fair crack of the whip. An extension to the Eat Out to Help Out for our city doesn’t need to come this week, or next, but it should be rolled out before the end of the year.”

The small business campaign group has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack MP over the issue, while a petition supporting such a move has gathered more than 3,600 signatures.

The FSB said feedback from members suggest that many operators believe they have lost between £2,000 and £50,000 by not being able to benefit from the initiative.

READ MORE: Aberdeen lockdown: return of restrictions a 'hammer blow' to businesses

The FSB said it raised the issue with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross MP during a meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Groundwater added: “We’re not asking for extra, just the help we missed out on.”

The chamber of commerce has also been in discussions with MPs over the Eat to Help Out plans for Aberdeen.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of the chamber, said: “The impact of the local lockdown has been felt by a large number of firms, many of whom were operating in sectors outwith those directly affected by the restrictions so, as a community, we need to continue to work together to ensure this never happens again and that our citizens and our local businesses are given the best possible chance of recovery.

“Encouraging spending is key and rebuilding consumer confidence sits at the heart of that.

“The chamber has for several weeks been in discussions with MPs and other stakeholders to seek an extension to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme as we have been the only place in the UK unable to take advantage of it and it has proved highly successful in encouraging traffic through the doors in other areas.

“It would also send a clear message from our political leaders that Aberdeen is safe and open for business.”

The FSB is also wants the wider scheme extended. Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a roaring success, not only giving firms a welcome shot in the arm but also encouraging people to rediscover the brilliant local restaurants, pubs and cafes on their doorstop. While it is important to get help to Aberdeen, we also think it’d be great for the Chancellor to explore whether a further UK-wide extension is possible.”