Scots lockdown would 'betray communities' say industry chiefs
The prospect of a fresh national lockdown being imposed across Scotland would be a "betrayal of businesses and communities", one of the country's top industry leaders has warned.
Scotland is now at "breaking point" as a result of an "overabundance of caution" and more restrictions would lead to untold damage, according to Tim Allan, President, Scottish Chambers of Commerce.
A five-tier system of restrictions came into force across Scotland a week ago, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is not ruling out the prospect imposing a national approach - with all council areas placed in the highest tier 4 - if Covid cases cannot be brought under control.
Pubs and restaurants have only recently been allowed to re-open across the central belt after weeks of closure, although they cannot serve alcohol and must close at 6pm.
Mr Allan warned: “Scotland is at breaking point and at risk of being strangled for an overabundance of caution.
“We simply must not move into a lock down or a so-called circuit break unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
“This is not just about the economy – although it is clearly facing perilous decline. It is about not trading harms caused by the virus, for greater harms caused by mental illness, joblessness and poverty because these can also be deadly for some.”
England went back into national lockdown last week, as a spike in cases threatened to overwhelm the NHS, after a similar re-imposition of blanket measures was introduced in Wales.
The First Minister hinted last week that there are signs numbers in Scotland have stabilised, although Saturday's official figures saw cases soar to more than 1,500, with 39 deaths. The number of positive cases in Scotland fell back to 1,115 on Sunday.
Ms Sturgeon is reviewing the lockdown levels, across all 32 council areas of Scotland, on a weekly basis. A national "circuit-breaker" approach could help bring numbers under control before the expected spike again during Winter.
But such a move would face an angry reaction in areas like Aberdeen, Moray, the Highlands and Islands, as well as the Borders where numbers are low and civic leaders are already seeking a switch down to Level 1 from 2.
Mr Allan added: "The First Minister must not panic and throw this plan away just days after it has been implemented, particularly where indications show the plan is working as transmissions are declining and going in the right direction.
"Frankly, a lock down would be a betrayal of our communities and businesses that have sacrificed so much and are working together to control COVID in their areas."
A Scottish Government spokesman said a national lockdown would only be imposed if “absolutely necessary.”
He added: “Our response to the pandemic is saving lives, however, we are acutely aware of the impact the health measures we have put in place to contain the spread of virus are having on the economy. Clearly, no-one wants these restrictions in place a moment longer than needed and they are kept under review.
“We are doing everything we can with our limited powers to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion in addition to the UK Government’s furlough scheme. We will continue to work closely with business organisations to do all we can to support businesses across Scotland.”
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