NO amount of financial support can compensate for an open, fully-functioning economy. That is a fact.

With increasing tiered restrictions and more severe ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions either in effect or under consideration in different areas across the UK, the situation for businesses continues to grow graver by the day.

The recent announcement from the Chancellor of additional support was a significant improvement for struggling firms and has been warmly received. Indeed the new business grant and job support scheme extension will be absolutely necessary to the survival of many businesses as CV19 restrictions are set to be in place indefinitely.

Chambers of Commerce have been pressing for a job support scheme which is more reflective of the challenging reality confronting firms as they look to retain workers in the face of tightening restrictions. In light of this, decreasing the threshold for hours worked and a significant reduction in the employer contribution will have a meaningful influence in the battle to protect livelihoods; while the boost to the self-employed grant has also been welcomed by many who have been at risk of not receiving the support that they need.

However, companies the length and breadth of the country are still facing the very bleak prospect of mass redundancies and financial collapse.

First and foremost businesses are looking to governments to set out a credible path to managing the virus and easing restrictions. Even in areas where firms have not been forced to close en masse, low consumer confidence is driving down demand and causing a real impact.

The UK needs a strategy that allows us to avoid economic paralysis and to manage the impact of the virus on our communities over the longer term. Business of all shapes, sizes and sectors in Scotland and beyond have worked incredibly hard to implement government guidance and create a Covid-secure environment for their employees, visitors and customers. 

The need for additional restrictions cannot be blamed on a lack of care by dedicated business owners and their employees. Instead, it demonstrates the failures of short-term decision-making and of Test and Trace systems, which must be urgently improved and expanded. 

The Chamber network collectively represents 75,000 firms across the UK employing nearly six million people. Following feedback from our members we have devised five business tests that we believe must be met to limit the impact of new restrictions on businesses and jobs and take a long-term approach to tackling the virus.

Are the restrictions evidence-based and targeted effectively? Are the restrictions clear and do businesses have time to prepare? Is support for businesses commensurate with the impact on them? Will the time that the restrictions are in place be used to significantly improve the Test, Trace and Isolate system? And is there a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions?

These tests must be met to avoid serious damage to business and consumer confidence, and potentially catastrophic economic consequences. We must preserve our economy in the immediacy, while also laying the foundations of future growth. Failure to do so will undermine any broader efforts to ‘level up’ left-behind parts of the UK.

The coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. It is clear that this winter will be extremely difficult for employers, their employees and a sustained approach to jobs support into 2021 is critical.

We need our governments to waste no more time in setting out a clear strategy to keep the economy functioning, while protecting public health over the long term.

Russell Borthwick is the chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce