Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan yesterday [Wednesday 18 March] raised the economic impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak on tourism and hospitality businesses in the Western Isles.

Over the last week, the islands MSP has received numerous queries from concerned businesses as visitors cancel planned trips and demand for a range of services plummets.

The Scottish Government has announced a range of actions to support businesses including a package of measures worth £2.2 billion from 1 April:

• a full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism
• £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief
• £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000
• 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year
• First Minister to convene an emergency meeting of the Financial Services Advisory Board
• urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways
• extending the go live date for the deposit return scheme to July 2022
• halting the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Here in the Western Isles, the tourism and hospitality sectors play a major role in our economy, and there is widespread anxiety about the economic consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak. I spoke to one small business in the islands earlier this week that had just taken 70 cancellations in the space of one hour.

“This is all coming at the worst possible time of year for cash flow. As things stand, many tourism and other businesses are wondering how they can get through the outbreak financially.

“I very much welcome the package of support that was announced earlier in terms of grants available to businesses and rates relief. I am also grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism that the Government will continue to listen to my constituents and others over the coming days to make sure they know what is required to protect and preserve affected businesses.

“There is a dedicated helpline that has been set-up to support businesses in Scotland which is on 0300 303 0660. I am aware that people have had difficulty getting through as the service has been inundated and is receiving thousands of calls a day. I welcome the commitment from the Scottish Government to scale up the resources available to help address the high volume of enquiries.”

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