As Covid-19 restrictions gradually lift, it’s heart-warming to see those kept apart from loved ones getting together, especially children, who are now able to play and socialise freely. I even got to hold my new grandson – a moment made more special after the long wait, and I’m grateful for the many, many good wishes I received from constituents on the news of Cameron’s arrival.
As Courier readers will know, many local businesses are seasonal and make their money over spring-summer. The health crisis has prevented many of them from trading, and as such, they face challenging times ahead.
Our world-renowned welcoming spirit, humour, ingenuity and grit will stand us in good stead as we recover our economy. Still, we also need support and investment to minimise the recession and the scars of unemployment, especially amongst our young people.
The furlough scheme has helped but is due to reduce by a fifth and will stop in October; leaving many tourism and hospitality businesses losing more money than they did when closed during the lockdown. Bearing in mind, it is a tough winter season that follows the coming months.
The tourism sector accounts for about a fifth of our local economy and provides jobs to thousands of families across our region. That’s why I’ll keep urging the UK Government to get behind the sector – support is vital.
Backed by the industry, I have long called for a VAT cut for the sector, so I was pleased to see the UK Chancellor agree to this. It will help in a meaningful way, but why only until January? At the very least, this relief should be in place until next Spring/summer or, preferably, make it permanent. Afterall the cut in tourism VAT only brings us into line with other European countries who already enjoy lower rates.
Despite putting in place more funding support over and above that offered by the UK Government, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes MSP knows further help is needed. She has repeatedly requested, even temporarily, more flexible borrowing powers to allow the Scottish Parliament to put an adequate support package in place. These calls remain unanswered.
So, the Chancellor refuses to put the necessary support in place, and his Government refuses to put mechanisms in place to allow the Scottish Government to tackle the issue instead. It really is little wonder that so many more people have concluded that Westminster doesn’t work for us.
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