Rachael Hamilton MSP and John Lamont MP hosted a virtual business roundtable to discuss with Borders’ businesses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both Rachael and John heard from a diverse range of businesses across the Borders on their reopening plans, financial concerns and plans for future viability.
Businesses made it clear that support from both of Scotland’s Governments, such as furlough, Eat Out to Help Out, VAT cut and rates relief had been integral to survival, however, a continuing resilience strategy based on recovery needs to be established.
Many businesses expressed concern that they have not yet reopened due to the lack of clear guidance on specific industries and requested that the First Minister provide guidelines further in advance to allow for preparation.
Both politicians are clear that a post-Covid revival will focus on a green recovery and apprenticeships, where people can reskill to adapt. This is pertinent to the Scottish Borders because our natural capital underpins jobs in agriculture, the food and drink sector and tourism which with the right support can create opportunities for young people who want to live and work locally.
With the area seeing many redundancies in the past few months, attributed to the economic downturn brought about by the pandemic, upskilling and retraining is crucial.
John and Rachael are keen to ensure the Scottish Government transition fund is made available to aid Borders companies to fend off redundancies.
Digital connectivity and improving infrastructure was also raised, as more Borders’ businesses have had to carry out work through virtual means.
Both Ms Hamilton and Mr Lamont have called on both Governments to provide economic stimulus packages, as well as persuading SBC to adopt a Borders Town Centre Revival Principle.
Rachael Hamilton MSP said:
“Businesses are trying their best to weather the storm and are pivoting towards new innovative ways of working.
“Hosting the virtual business roundtable was my top priority, we need to get heads together and work constructively to get our Borders’ economy back up and running.
“I want to thank all of those who took part, from small businesses to larger ones, they are the backbone of our local economy and are working hard despite facing economic adversity.
“We will feed in all comments to the Scottish and UK Governments on a range of issues from Covid grants to the furlough scheme.
“Many businesses are starting to reopen, which is positive news, but there is still a long way to go and we need both Governments to work to address this.
“For those that have not had the same success, we need a package of measures to help those, such as wedding/events businesses, to recover”.
John Lamont MP said:
“This discussion with local businesses was incredibly helpful. Whilst many firms have received significant financial support from both of Scotland’s governments, it is clear that there is much uncertainty about what the future may hold. However, at the same time, there were some very imaginative ideas about how the economy might be made more resilient and environmentally friendly for the future.
“I will certainly be using many of the ideas discussed in this virtual business roundtable to report back to my colleagues in the UK Government to ensure that our economy here in the Borders bounces back from the downturn as quickly as possible.
“The protection of local jobs must be the priority of the post pandemic economic recovery plan for the Borders. This is particularly the case given some of the very challenging news from local businesses in recent months. Unless we have good, well paid jobs in the Borders, we will struggle to maintain vibrant high streets and other businesses.”
“I am confident that if both the UK and Scottish governments work together along with the local council, the Borders economy will bounce back.”