Scotland’s businesses will be gearing up for one of the busiest weekends many will have experienced since lockdown restrictions were first imposed, back in the challenging days of March 2020.
Throughout the pandemic, many businesses and individuals have experienced profound pain and loss, both professionally and personally, the experience of which will remain with many of us for a long time to come. However, we are now moving towards a path to more normality and the further lifting of many restrictions is a significant step forward.
It’s clear that although businesses now have a glimpse of the journey ahead, we are not out of the woods just yet. Recovery will take time, but, if the level of resilience, tenacity and sheer hard work exhibited by businesses and our employees across Scotland over this most challenging of times is our starting position, there is no doubt in my mind we can succeed. The continued easing of restrictions has enabled businesses to open again, some for the very first time since the pandemic struck, and others to begin trading again, hopefully, up to levels which can ensure their long-term future.
The changes to self-isolation, physical distancing and the gathering of friends and family will provide businesses with a substantial boon, allowing them to operate with increased capacity, whilst removing the huge pressures of staff being required to self-isolate due to close contact guidance which had left many businesses unable to operate fully, if at all. The continued expansion of the vaccination programme and the inclusion of more young people will also help us to manage the impacts of the virus and return to greater normality.
The long-awaited greenlight for the phased re-opening of office-based businesses will be lauded by town and city centre businesses across Scotland, all severely damaged by the decline in office worker footfall over the course of the pandemic.
And the confirmation that our night-time economy, events, conferences, and festival sectors can return to business was another major milestone as they all play an integral role in Scotland’s economy and hospitality offering. In addition, the announcement of UK Government support for live events through the introduction of a £750m insurance scheme will inject confidence back into the hard-hit sector. Despite this growing positivity, there is, as ever, a caveat. Until we see the lifting of all legal restrictions linked to the pandemic, businesses will continue to face a painful and uphill struggle to recover. That is why it is so important that government and business continue to engage in meaningful, constructive and partnership dialogue which not only listens but implements actions quickly.
We do need to acknowledge and understand that most of our business models have changed. The spaces we worked in are changing and being redesigned alongside the introduction of new patterns of working, which in many cases, have proven to be more productive, effective, and enjoyable. This is transformation in action. Businesses and our people have evolved and adapted their roles and responsibilities over the course of the pandemic, always retaining a laser focus on keeping our employees, customers, suppliers, and communities safe whilst retaining as many jobs as possible. Now is the time for government to acknowledge that work and transfer back responsibility to businesses and local communities.
Only by trusting and enabling business owners and employees to make the right choices and take informed decisions about how they want to engage and meet business need, as we return to greater normality, will it allow us to collectively begin to rebuild.
Liz Cameron is chief executive of
Scottish Chambers of Commerce