ALMOST £2bn has been lost by Scottish retails due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New analysis by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has found that shops selling on-essential goods lost £1.9bn between March and June this year.

It comes as a report by MPs on the Business committee has called on the Chancellor to provide extra support for businesses most affected by the pandemic, such as retailers, arts and culture.

They also state that the current government policies such as the furlough scheme, business interruption loan and self employment income support schemes are not set up to cope with a second wave of the virus if it hits the country.

Localised outbreaks have already started sweeping the UK, including cases cropping up in the Borders, Leicester and elsewhere.

The SRC looked at retail sales in Scotland compared to this time last year, and found that while not all retailers were affected significantly, shoes and clothing sellers were particularly badly hit.

According to government figures the value of the Scottish retail sector is roughly £24bn. In April, when the country was in full lockdown, sales dropped by 40% and lost firms around £740m. The next month sales decreased by 28% and in June they were down by 19%. In March, when lockdown was introduced, sales fell by 13%.

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the absence of office workers, students and tourists will continue to affect shops across the country.

He explained: “These figures are stark and show that retail sales crumbled over the first four months of the pandemic.

“Not all retail sub-sectors were impacted equally, with fashion, clothing and footwear faring particularly poorly.

“Shops and retail jobs depend on the ongoing patronage of the public and whilst the situation is gradually improving, it remains particularly acute in our city centres where stores are suffering huge drops in footfall.

“Any prolonged absence of office workers, students and tourists from Scotland’s city centres will be hugely challenging for retail and hospitality businesses who rely on their custom, and who often already face high property costs.

“This will have consequences for jobs, vacant premises, and tax revenues.”

In Westminster, the Business committee chairman Darren Jones MP has written to Alok Sharma, the businesses minister urging him to "plug the gap" in support for those ineligible for other schemes, citing evidence from another committee that around one million people in the UK had missed out.

Crucially the committee has recommended extra support for sectors affected particularly badly from the pandemic, suggesting the Government "review" sectors "suffering from acute problems resulting from social distancing and other health and safety measures with a view to providing additional support."

Mr Jones said: "Witnesses from a number of sectors, such as retail, the creative industries and manufacturing expressed concern that there would be increasing redundancies from August. The restrictions on live performances by actors and musicians, for example, has had a profound affect on the livelihoods of thousands across the UK. The shutdown of the aviation and aerospace sector will clearly have a longer-term impact compared to other sectors. We know that even with the CJRS [Coronavirus job retention scheme] and the other support packages provided by the Government that these sectors in particular have already suffered significant job losses."

The committee has detailed concerns over exploitation of workers during the coronavirus period, citing examples where staff have been forced to work in environments they do not consider safe, and pregnant women being asked to go off sick rather than take furlough leave prior to their maternity leave starting.

The MP explained: "We heard that pregnant women who had not yet gone on maternity leave were being unfairly treated. This included: pregnant women: being put on sick pay rather than being furloughed, which affected their statutory maternity benefit entitlement; being made redundant before going on maternity leave; and being pressurised into working in unsafe working environments. Similarly, as the lockdown has been lifted, pregnant women have found that they are being encouraged to return to unsafe workplaces and are still being treated unfairly."

SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said the government's plans to end the furlough scheme in October were "premature and reckless",

She said: " In just under a week’s time, the Tory government will plough ahead with its premature and reckless plans to cut back support through the Job Retention Scheme – despite warnings that this could lead to a 'jobs bloodbath'.

"If the Chancellor is serious about protecting jobs and businesses, and ensuring a strong economic recovery, then he must strengthen and extend the furlough schemes into 2021 – including closing the gaps that see seasonal workers, freelancers, self-employed people, and others getting little to no help during this unprecedented crisis.

“Failing to do so could lead to redundancies on a level not seen since the 1980s and force many more businesses to pull down their shutters for good."

Jamie Stone, Lib Dem MP, said it should not be on employers to support freelance workers, after the BBC announced that it would offer financial support to 600 freelancers they regularly employ.

Mr Stone, who chairs the cross=party parliamentary group fighting for people excluded from government schemes, said: "Freelancers are of immeasurable valuable to our arts and screen sectors.

“Millions of people across the UK have been left in bleak situations with no income and no support throughout the pandemic. Many of these people are freelancers and still face real financial hardship.

“This should never have been left to individual employers to cover the gaps in the Government’s schemes. I urge the Chancellor to find a way to help those excluded from existing schemes and ensure that no one is left behind.”