BETTER news on the coronavirus front in Scotland brought a quickfire seismic shift for islands tourism firms on Tuesday when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a reopening in line with the mainland.

The bolt from the blue during this Business Week came after tourism organisations complained of being left in limbo for a month while the rest of Scotland was granted a roadmap for getting back to business.

It led to £2 million worth of cancellations in the islands while mainland businesses took new bookings ahead of new beginnings.

The First Minister admitted there was “no universal opinion” among islanders and either way not everyone would be pleased, but that she is “aligning islands with the rest of the country for a period so that travel, and therefore parts of the economy that so many islanders rely on, can operate more normally from April 26”.

There is still concern among some in the islands over the Scottish Government consultation on the subject, the outcome of which will remain secret.

There is a number of islands that voted in a clear a majority to seek a more tailored reopening, some were split down the middle and others didn’t respond at all, according to our sources.

Holyrood tells me “there are no plans to publish the engagement exercise on easing restrictions”.

It might be academic anyway though as the faltering ferry service came sharply back into focus with a “major technical failure” – breakdown – involving CalMac’s largest ferry MV Loch Seaforth. It looks likely to have left it in dock until, the operator reckons, the end of the month, a timescale thought ambitious in the islands.

It has also led to calls for compensation for businesses affected by reduced services. The safe reopening of the islands economy requires Scottish Government support for at the very least adequate subsidised ferry cover amid concerns “residents will be crowded off ferries in favour of tourists”.

HeraldScotland: Hillington Park, near Glasgow, now and then.Hillington Park, near Glasgow, now and then.

Logistics has become a key sector on the pandemic landscape and Frasers Property’s plan for the former Rolls-Royce site at Hillington for modern industrial units could dovetail with this. It means about 200 jobs when complete which is great, but it’s still some way from the 25,000 that once worked on Merlin engines for Spitfires at the site, although there are 8,000 on the wider Hilington estate.

Rumblings in the City of a significant sale by a state-owned Scottish lender were realised and £54m changed hands as the Royal Bank of Scotland owner NatWest Group offloaded part of its Adam & Company private banking operation, brand name included.

More ripples across a sector seeing change came when Cornerstone Asset Management, with bases in Glasgow and Edinburgh, was bought by London’s Waverton Investment Management, for a sum that was not disclosed. The Cornerstone book has 1,000 clients with funds around £500m.

With reopening in sight, Scotland’s most southerly whisky maker is readying for the return of guests to its underused 2019 visitor facility. It is also set for an international push after securing a £10m bank loan.

Master distiller Nick Savage says “while trading conditions have been challenging in the face of Brexit and Covid-19, we’ve managed to grow through this period and the business is now in a place where it can explore new opportunities to increase our international sales and reputation”. Cheers.

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