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Business groups sound the alarm over vaccine passports and demand a recovery plan

Russell Borthwick from Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce: "the futures of thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk".
Russell Borthwick from Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce: "the futures of thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk".

Huge dismay among business groups has met Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal to introduce vaccine passports for entry to nightclubs and large events.

MSPs are due to vote this week on the plan, which Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) chief executive Russell Borthwick has branded “inexplicable and unacceptable”.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) last week wrote a letter on behalf of all chambers decrying the scheme and warning that venue owners and events organisers were considering cancelling events or re-organising them elsewhere in the UK as a result of the proposal, which would put Scotland at “a further economic disadvantage”.

The letter cam hot on the heels the First Minister saying she wanted to introduce the scheme “quickly” in response to surging Covid-19 infections, warning they could rise to 10,000 a day.

Meanwhile the SCC and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have also set out how businesses should be supported to ensure the economy continues its recovery from the pandemic as the Scottish Government prepares to launch its programme for government, which is also due this week.

What on earth are they thinking?

Speaking about the proposed vaccine passport scheme, Mr Borthwick said:

“Despite initially hinting at it last week, Ms Sturgeon has since been quoted as saying that the government does not want to reimpose any restrictions. What on earth do they think mandating face coverings, the need to scan in on entry to venues, advising strongly to continue working from home and then threatening to introduce a vaccine passport are if not restrictions?

“The contradictions are inexplicable and unacceptable. We are a million miles from normal, making the phrase ‘beyond zero’ a laughable misnomer.”

Russell Borthwick from Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber Of Commerce claims the Scottish Government’s “intervention and excessive levels of propaganda are proving hugely damaging and costly to business and consumer confidence”. Pic by Chris Sumner.

He warned that although there have been early signs the economy was recovering from the pandemic, this was still “fragile” – and the Scottish Government risked causing further damage.

He added: “These types of intervention and excessive levels of propaganda are proving hugely damaging and costly to business and consumer confidence.

“And specifically, the utter confusion is delaying the plans of companies to welcome staff back to offices, something that continues to be an existential threat to town and city centre eco systems.

“With many lifeline business support measures coming to an end in only a matter of weeks, mounting business debt and growing supply chain issues, businesses are deeply concerned about increasing costs and administrative burdens exacerbating an already delicate situation.

The futures of thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk if government continues with this over-cautious and scare-mongering approach

“To be clear, the futures of thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk if government continues with this over-cautious and scare-mongering approach.

“A further demonstration of the total lack of trust, understanding and regard being demonstrated for the economy and jobs by those calling the shots over the last 18 months.”

He further argued that while previous lockdown measures had proved justified, government now needed to enable businesses and individuals to “exercise our own judgement”.

We need trust in our own judgement

He said: “The implementation of emergency measures was justified by the need to save lives and protect the NHS. The success of the vaccine programme means that neither of these things appear now to be a significant risk.

“Some of the measures still in place and those being proposed should neither be mandated nor even advised by government.

“We all individually manage risk every day in every aspect of our business and personal lives and should be trusted to exercise our own judgement and do so again now.”

Ahead of the publication of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, FSB and SCC have published views on outlining the priorities for Scotland’s business community for the coming Parliamentary year.

Andrew McRae, Scotland’s policy chair, of Federation of Small Business (FSB) said “too many small businesses in Scotland lose out”.

The FSB has called for action to ensure local firms win more public contracts.

The group set out that only 5% of the Scottish public sector’s £14billion procurement budget is spent with firms with fewer than 10 employees despite these firms accounting for 94 per cent of businesses in Scotland.

The value of procurement contracts won by smaller firms has been in decline in Scotland since 2016, FSB said,

The small business campaign group is further urging ministers to develop local supply chains for projects to reduce carbon emissions, such as schemes to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Too many small businesses in Scotland lose out to multinationals when it comes to winning public work.

“And with big plans on the horizon to make our buildings more energy efficient, there’s a risk that the design of contracts could exclude independent firms.

” That’s why many will have been pleased to see the SNP and Greens agree to change the systems the Scottish public sector uses to buy goods and services.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chamber of Commerce says it is  “essential that Scotland’s businesses aren’t coming out of the frying pan and going straight into the fire”.

In another letter to the first minister ahead of the publication of the programme for government, SCC said that “front and centre of the Scottish Government’s agenda must be a Covid recovery plan that will support businesses and Scotland’s economic recovery”.

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of SCC said: “Scotland’s economy is finally starting to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s essential that Scotland’s businesses aren’t coming out of the frying pan and going straight into the fire.

“It’s essential that the Scottish Government carefully consider the needs of businesses throughout the passage and implementation of its legislative programme during this session and use every lever at its disposal to secure an economic recovery that will create jobs and growth in every part of the country.”

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