Scots firms being failed by Scottish Government, business leader claims

A business leader has said the Scottish Government has failed companies by not coming up with an adequate contact tracing system.

Stuart Patrick, the chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said firms are being “switched on and off like lightbulbs” with changes in restrictions under the Scottish Government’s tiered system.

Under the new framework, weekly reviews are held to determine the level of restrictions to be enforced in each local authority area.

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Mr Patrick’s comments come as Glasgow and some other central belt local authorities face being put into Level 4 restrictions, the toughest available in the current system, which he claims would “suspend” 80,000 jobs.

Stuart Patrick, the chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said firms are being “switched on and off like lightbulbs” with changes in restrictions under the Scottish Government’s tiered system. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Stuart Patrick, the chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said firms are being “switched on and off like lightbulbs” with changes in restrictions under the Scottish Government’s tiered system. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said on Sunday the move is “not inevitable”.

Mr Patrick told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Monday: “It’s not too surprising to find that amongst the membership there’s a degree of disillusionment with the way in which the Government has handled its relationship with business.

“Business went about investing millions in putting in the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), setting up the Test and Protect systems and ensuring that their operations were as safe as they could be.”

He added: “But we feel that the Government hasn’t fully delivered on its side of the bargain, which was to deliver a very successful Test and Protect system.

“That clearly hasn’t worked otherwise we wouldn’t be going into another round of lockdowns.”

Mr Patrick said if swathes of the country enter Level 4 restrictions and non-essential shops are forced to close “there really has to be sufficient investment in the mass testing that’s going to be necessary to avoid having to go into this miserable lockdown cycle”.

Meanwhile, East Dunbartonshire Council joint leader Andrew Polson has urged the Scottish Government to use “severe caution” when placing areas into tougher restrictions.

Mr Polson claimed ministers are only paying “lip service” to some of the harms caused by the pandemic.

Only the harm against public health, Mr Polson said, is being considered, while problems caused in the delivery of health and social care, the economy and the exacerbating of social harms are not being given as much attention.

Despite his statement on Sunday, Mr Swinney has told local authorities in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire health board areas that it is “highly possible” they will be moved from Level 3 to Level 4, according to the senior Conservative councillor.

He said: “It is irresponsible of decision-makers not to take into account other health harms, inequalities which affect those disadvantaged already and the severe economic damage that will impact on people losing their jobs and livelihoods.”

Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We try to assign levels based on the extent of restrictions that we think are required, taking account of the prevalence, the test positivity, the pressure on NHS resources and, of course, the direction of travel.

“In terms of the economic and social impact, of course, we are all concerned about that, which is why we don’t take decisions about increasing restrictions and certainly not going to the Level 4 tier of restrictions lightly.”

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