A TSUNAMI of job losses and soaring prices will be key challenges as the world recovers from Covid, according to Scottish entrepreneurs Sir Tom Hunter and Lord Willie Haughey.

“As we see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, everybody is going to be concentrating totally on employment and unemployment,” Lord Haughey said on the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey.

“We have not seen the tsunami that’s coming around the corner, with the people who are going to lose their jobs, especially in the hospitality industry. So I think there’ll be plenty for politicians to get on with, without having a debate the constitutional issues.”

Sir Tom, the businessman and philanthropist, said the reopening of hospitality was a good thing, but that businesses now faced different challenges, including skills.

“Somebody was telling me there’s a shortage of chefs now,” he said. “Because of Brexit, a lot of people have gone home.

“Furlough is going to end, the rates holiday is going to end and sea bills (for the shipment of goods) have got to be paid back. All of these things are coming.”

Amidst the euphoria of getting back to some normality, this meant challenges ahead for every business, with support needed to get them through.

Lord Haughey, the Labour Peer and owner of Glasgow-based facilities company, City Facilities Management Holdings, said he had heard increasing reports of sharp price rises in sectors like construction.

“We all thought that inflation would stay steady now for many, many years,” he said. “What I’ve seen in the last few weeks has actually frightened me about where prices are going with various things. A bag of cement is up 300% in four months. The price of steel since the start of the year is up 14%. This is just one sector, with building.”

Lord Haughey said the transport manager for his business, which has around 3,500 vehicles on the road, had also told him of an eight to nine month waiting list for ordering new vans.

And a friend who ships goods from China had seen the cost of containers soar from £3,000 to £12,000.

“So I think all of these things, when the dust settles, are going to add to the problem that Covid has created,” Lord Haughey said.

Donald Martin, editor of The Herald and Sunday Herald, asked: “Is there an escape route for us out of all these mounting problems?”

Sir Tom replied that there were always answers, but added: “People think Covid’s finished –brilliant – let’s all just get back to normal.

“But as ever in business, there are challenges ahead for every business person, every entrepreneur out there. And that’s what entrepreneurs do. They solve problems.”

Sir Tom said there would be a time for another referendum on Scottish independence, but it definitely wasn’t now.

“We have an economic crisis,” he said. “And even before Covid, Scotland was underperforming, which wasn’t good enough.

“We’ve got a health crisis. I read about a poor lady in the Highlands, who was quoted six years to wait for a double hip transplant, which is ridiculous.

“And I’m really worried about the cancer epidemic because of untreated, undiagnosed cancers.

“Education – Scotland led the world with its education system and I want them to do that again. Standards were falling before Covid and now we’ve had children out of full time education for more than a year.

“So chuck in the climate crisis, and I think another constitutional debate is way down the to do list, because we need to focus on these other things.”