One of Edinburgh’s most respected independent retailers has expressed his frustration at the Scottish Government’s siphoning of money intended to support businesses being used on other non-business issues.
Michael Apter, the owner of Paper Tiger – with two branches in central Edinburgh – has been attempting to navigate the changes caused by the pandemic.
He argued: “In spring 2020, the Scottish Government failed to pass on 100% of the UK Treasury funding made available for grant support, then in the recent Holyrood budget, they failed to pass on the same rates relief for 2022/23 that has been offered to businesses in England.”
By contrast, he said: “Hospitality received additional grant funding in spring 2021 as the economy reopened, and has enjoyed an extended VAT holiday, and has also benefited from the enormous success of the Eat Out To Help Out campaign.
“My retail competitors in England are thousands of pounds better off as a consequence of the Scottish Government refusing to pass on grant funding made available in England.”
Apter pointed out that the UK Treasury has consistently offered better support to other sectors and has failed to properly address the current circumstances in an adequate manner.
The Edinburgh retailer’s comment came after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reduced the time for self-isolation from 10 to seven days, aligning Scotland with the rest of the UK.
Apter, writing on LinkedIn, said: “I turned off the First Minister’s address once I had understood what the revised regulations regarding Covid testing and reporting meant for me.
“I am presently missing almost a third of my team due to self-isolation/positive test results – it has been very hard to manage a business and keep the doors open in such difficult circumstances, and it puts a great deal of pressure on the rest of the team who are currently fit and able to work.”
He explained that the business has not been able to trade normal hours and his staff have not been able to rest properly over the holiday period.
“We have not been able to maintain our usual levels of service – this has cost the business a lot of money” Apter stated.
“Turning off the First Minister after the initial announcement meant that I missed the subsequent offer of £55m in support to taxi drivers, hairdressers and salons, sports and tourism.
“Wow! Presumably this gesture is an acknowledgement that the service economy and specialist sectors and businesses have been battered by the Omicron wave and by the associated impact of isolation rules, exhortations to work from home instructions, cancel Christmas.”
However, Apter said Scottish retailers have been short-changed once again.
Leon Thompson, UK Hospitality director, speaking in The Sunday Times, said: “There’s now a complete lack of trust in the Scottish Government over its handling of Covid and its intentions for businesses and the Scottish economy.
“They must show a commitment to keeping businesses open, just as it has committed to keeping schools open – instead of constantly choosing to shut down firms.
“The danger in this endless divergence in the rules with England is that Scotland will not be seen as a reliable place to book a holiday or to stage large corporate event.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are all to aware of the impact that Covid-19 has had, and continues to have, on business and the Scottish economy.
“The speed with which the new variant is spreading brings even more economic uncertainty – underlining the importance of businesses encouraging customers to wear face coverings and follow physical distancing requirements.”
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