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Mass testing and quality assurance system would help Highland businesses negotiate 'rocky road' ahead in Covid-19 pandemic; Region has not 'got off lightly' being placed in Tier 1, says small business representative

By Hector MacKenzie

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THE Highlands have not "got off lightly" by being left at the lower level of coronavirus restrictions announced yesterday.

Yesterday’s announcement by the First Minister that the Highlands and Islands and Moray would all remain in Tier 1 is not the let-off it might seem to some.

So says the Federation of Small Businesses Highlands and Islands development manager, David Richardson.

He said: “The Scottish Government’s decision to place the West of Scotland in Level 4 is tragic news for the businesses struggling to survive in that part of the country.

"However, the decision to keep the Highlands, Islands and Moray in Level 1 does not mean that we have got off lightly and that we can all relax. Far from it!

“The Highland economy relies very heavily on markets in the more populous parts of the UK, especially the Central Belt and England, and the futures of the majority of our businesses, directly or indirectly, are inextricably linked to theirs. If they sneeze, we catch cold.

“With Christmas just around the corner and 2021 in the offing, Ross-shire businesses battling for survival in things like retail, tourism and hospitality and food and drink desperately need more certainty so that they can prepare.

“The road ahead is undoubtedly rocky, and to make the journey as painless as possible we need a new, rapid, mass-testing system in place to enable more people to travel; we need a new ‘quality assurance’ type system that enables businesses to demonstrate that they are Covid-safe and can open, thereby doing away with the need for blanket sectoral bans; and businesses and their customers need clear, unambiguous, easily followed guidelines.

“We also need more financial support for a wide range of struggling businesses, not least home and vehicle-based businesses and the directors of small companies.”

Related: First Minister keeps Highlands in Tier 1 of Covid-19 restrictions regime

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