Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called for the government to give certainty to businesses affected by local lockdowns, particularly in light of reports of an enhanced national lockdown in Scotland this week. Speaking during an urgent debate in Parliament, Mr Carmichael highlighted the enhanced risks to tourism and hospitality businesses running into the last school holiday before winter. Last week Mr Carmichael met with the Scottish Tourism Alliance to discuss their concerns about the level of support to date.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The speculation in the media today that the Scottish Government is about to introduce greater restrictions in Scotland just as we go into the October school holidays is causing tremendous concern to businesses in my constituency, especially those working in the visitor economy. What is the Chief Secretary able to do by way of giving them some comfort that they will be protected, and that he will work with the Scottish Government to ensure that they get the support they need?”
Responding for the government, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay MP said:
“I do think the response to the pandemic is helped if across the United Kingdom we take a coordinated approach. The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland for example sits alongside the CMOs from the rest of the United Kingdom through the Joint Biosecurity Centre and a huge amount of joint work is undertaken. I engage regularly with counterparts in the Scottish Government and I think the point he raises is an important one, which is that there is concern within the business community and it’s important that a consistent message across the United Kingdom, followed by the CMOs, is applied.”
Reacting after the exchange Mr Carmichael said:
“The minister says he understands the issues for businesses facing a renewed lockdown but it is not clear that understanding will be followed by action. If there are further restrictions in Scotland and the rest of the UK then we can expect an impact on businesses and livelihoods as night follows day. I have heard the Chancellor say that we cannot protect every job but we must ensure that we give fundamentally sound industries the chance to grow back strongly.”