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Highland business group welcomes First Minister's roadmap out of lockdown – but 40 per cent of those quizzed unsure if they'll make it to end of April

By Hector MacKenzie

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David Richardson: Timetable welcome but businesses still struggling.
David Richardson: Timetable welcome but businesses still struggling.

HIGHLAND businesses will be "pleasantly surprised" at detailed plans for the reopening of the economy as further corornavirus restrictions are eased – though some may not make it to the end of April.

That's the snapshot view of the Federation of Small Businesses’ Highlands & Islands development manager following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's roadmap out lockdown.

Her proposed timetable comes ahead of next week's first anniversary of the first imposition of a national lockdown last March.

It includes an April 2 date for lifting of 'stay at home' requirements and April 5 for more retail premises.

Tourism businesses and more shops are being allowed to reopen from April 26 with further easing from May 17.

Commenting on today’s announcement from the First Minister, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Highlands & Islands Development Manager, David Richardson, said: “Overall, Highland businesses will be pleasantly surprised at the First Minister’s statement.

"We know that tourism and hospitality businesses in particular have been desperate for more clarity so that they can start to plan, and now, while the reopening dates certainly aren’t soon enough for many, we know what should happen when if everything goes well.

“However, while the publication of the roadmap is very welcome, many small Highland businesses are laden with massive debts and today’s announcement not withstanding, they remain in crisis. Our newest survey has found that 40 per cent don’t know if they will survive until the end of April and 46 per cent for the next few months. So while the Scottish Government’s new re-start grants are very welcome indeed, many of the independent operators on which our communities rely are going to need more financial help to get them to mid-summer and beyond.”

Many small Highland businesses are laden with massive debts and today’s announcement not withstanding, they remain in crisis - David Richardson

The proposed timetable is as follows:

April 2

Lifting the ‘Stay at Home’ requirement and replacing it with a ‘Stay Local’ message (retaining the current, local authority-based travel restrictions for at least a three-week period)

April 5

Resumption of outdoor contact sport for 12-17 year olds.

Return of college students within the top three priority groups identified by Colleges Scotland as most likely not to complete this academic year (estimated as 29 per cent of learners).

Reopening of non-essential ‘click and collect’ retail.

Extending the list of retail permitted to include: garden centres (indoor and outdoor), key cutting shops, mobility equipment shops, baby equipment shops, electrical repair shops, hairdressers and barbers (with shopfronts – not mobile services), by appointment only, homeware shops, vehicle showrooms (appointment only) and forecourts

April 12-19 depending on term times

All children back to school full-time

April 26

Extending outdoor socialising to permit up to six people from up to three households to gather.

Allowing 12-17 year olds to meet outdoors in groups of six from up to six households.

Travel within all of mainland Scotland permitted (subject to other restrictions that remain in place).

Remaining shops can reopen and mobile close contact services can resume.

Gyms can reopen for individual exercise.

Tourist accommodation to reopen (self-catering accommodation to be restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering).

Work in people’s homes to resume.

Driving lessons to resume.

Weddings and funerals for up to 50 (including wakes and receptions with no alcohol permitted).

Libraries, museums, galleries re-open.

Outdoor hospitality to open till 10pm with alcohol permitted. Indoor hospitality permitted without alcohol and closing at 8pm.

Social mixing in indoor public places will be subject to current maximum of four people from up to two households.

The prohibition of in-home socialising will continue to be kept under review at this date.

May 17

Reintroducing in-home socialising for up to four people from up to two households.

Further re-opening of hospitality: bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can stay open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted and two hour time-limited slots and until 10pm outdoors with alcohol permitted.

Adult outdoor contact sport and indoor group exercises can resume.

Cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls can re-open.

Small scale indoor and outdoor events can resume subject to capacity constraints (to be confirmed following stakeholder engagement).

Colleges and universities can return to a more blended model of learning.

More in-person (face-to-face) support services can resume.

Non-professional performance arts can resume outdoors.

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