BUSINESS leaders have called for Aberdeen’s hospitality sector to get financial help to get it “back on its feet”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament yesterday that local restrictions would remain in place for at least another seven days following the discovery of a Covid-19 cluster at the Hawthorn Bar earlier this month.
Around 177 cases have now been linked to the Aberdeen bar outbreak.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on policy-makers to look out for the city’s small bars and restaurants.
David Groundwater, FSB’s development manager for north-east Scotland, said: “With coronavirus case numbers still high in Aberdeen, authorities have made an understandable decision to extend lockdown conditions for another week.
“But at every turn policy-makers need to remember the many local firms who – through no fault of their own – either can’t open their doors or face a collapse in local footfall.
“At the very least, now’s the time to work out how we’ll get business in the granite city back on their feet.
“One great idea to allow Aberdeen eateries to benefit from the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme later this year, as they’re missing out this August.
“Another sensible proposal is to roll-out local grants if this lockdown continues much longer.”
The Scottish Government said last night it had introduced a total package for businesses of over £2.3billion and will now put in place a £230million Restart the Economy capital stimulus fund.
A spokeswoman said: “Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop spoke with local business organisations last week and we are engaging with local partners to ensure we understand all the impacts of the restrictions and how we might support affected businesses.
“We continue to call on the UK Government to consider what support it can provide through its schemes.
“The Scottish Government is working with a range of business organisations, local authorities and others on a framework for managing business impacts associated with localised outbreaks – aligned, of course, with public health protocols.
“As the first minister has said, we do not want to impose local restrictions if we can avoid it.
“However, in some circumstances, as with Aberdeen, they will be required in order to suppress the virus and keep localised outbreaks or clusters under control in a targeted and less restrictive way.”
Adrian Watson, chief executive of business improvement district Aberdeen Inspired, called the extension of lockdown a “setback” for an industry that had already suffered badly.
However, he said he was confident the city could “bounce back” despite the many challenges it now faced.