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Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.

 

UK GOVERNMENT MUST EXTEND FURLOUGH SCHEME OR RISK ‘HUGE JOB LOSSES’ ACROSS DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY – says COLIN SMYTH

The UK Government must extend the Covid-19 furlough scheme or risk “huge job losses” across Dumfries and Galloway, South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned.

Recent furlough figures released by the UK Government show 15,400 people in Dumfries and Galloway had been furloughed as of 31 May, while 5,500 Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) claims were made, totalling £16.5m.

SEISS uptake was just 64 per cent, the third lowest take up rate in Scotland and below the Scottish average of 70 per cent.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close on 31 October 2020 and from 1 August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month. 

 

ColinSmythMSP

The timetable for changes to the scheme is set out below:

  •          For June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work.
  •          For August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough.
  •          For September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.
  •          For October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.

Colin Smyth said: “These furlough figures show the scale of the economic tsunami which is about to hit our region.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis, but as I have said from the start, it is also a serious economic crisis too.

“Tens of thousands of people in our region are currently reliant on the furlough scheme and when it comes to a close at the end of October, we will see huge job losses. Over 15,000 people in Dumfries and Galloway are being paid through the furlough scheme because their jobs have been affected by the pandemic.

“Once this support is withdrawn, while some people will be able to go back to work, many employers are going to seriously struggle and will have little option other than to lay people off unless we see more Government support.

“Our region is heavily reliant on tourism and hospitality and it is these sectors which will take the longest to recover from the lockdown.

“I am urging the UK Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond the current end date of October or risk huge job losses. This is a very perilous time for our economy and the livelihoods of thousands of my constituents are on a knife edge. I want action now and I will continue to push for more support.”

BUSINESS REMAINS BOUYANT AT LEADING LOCAL RECRUITER

Leading transport and logistics specialist recruitment company and Chamber members, dhRecruitment Dumfries, has been busy throughout the lockdown supplying key businesses and organisations with delivery drivers, factory workers, warehouse and office staff. On average the business has been finding work for around 50 local people every week.

“We’ve been lucky in that only two of our regular clients closed down completely. We’ve been constantly busy,” says Christine Proudfoot, Manager of dhRecruitment Dumfries.

“When the lockdown was at its peak we were supplying drivers and loaders for bin collections and deliveries of essential medical supplies to pharmacies. We also provided workers to a local factory which makes packaging products for the pharmaceutical industry.”

 

DriverHire

As the lockdown is gradually lifted, Christine is already seeing green shoots of recovery in other areas. “With gardening centres now open again there’s been massive pent-up demand, so we have a number of our temps helping them with delivery work. We’re also providing staff for recycling centres too. Day by day we’re receiving more and more enquiries from our clients.”

Christine has also found some employers are using temps to cover staff currently on furlough as their businesses gradually return to normal. “It’s a bit of a ‘toe in the water’ thing,” says Christine. “Employers want to be sure that staff will be fully employed when they return to work; using a temp gives them the flexibility to test the water before bringing back their full-time staff.”

“Of course, my main concern throughout these difficult times is the safety of our workers and my office staff. We’ve been working remotely since March and we continue to remind all our drivers and staff of the importance of social distancing, regular hand washing and, if required, the use of personal protection equipment.”

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SCC respond to measures announced for tourism industry in Scotland

On the announcement made by the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP, that from 15 July, Scottish tourism businesses may be able to resume operations, Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“This will be welcome news for so many who are reliant on hospitality and tourism for their livelihoods. The Scottish Chamber network alone represents over 1,600 businesses in the tourism sector which employ over 46,000 people, underlining how critical it is for jobs and skills that the sector thrives. The Scottish Government has listened but for some it is already too late and the challenge ahead remains clear. The sector, which is essential to maintaining the fabric of many areas of Scotland remains fragile. These companies will continue to need support to ensure they can adapt to provide a safe experience for visitors.”

 

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HARPER CONCERNED OVER LACK OF SCOTCH BEEF, SCOTCH LAMB AND SCOTCH PORK ON STORE SHELVES

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has raised concerns over a lack of Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Scotch Pork on the shelves of some of the major supermarkets across Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland.

The revelation has been published in The Scottish Farmer which details the Scotch percentage by range of retailer at the large supermarket chains; Tesco, Asda, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi.

Tesco, who supplied up to 87% Scotch Beef and 67% Scotch Lamb as of November 2019, had zero of the same product on their shelves in the month of May this year.

Asda, which previously stocked 15% of Scotch beef and 19% of Scotch Lamb last November, has now reduced its supplies of the Scottish quality brand to 13% of Scotch Beef and 0% of Scotch Lamb.

In comparison, Morrisons supermarket has increased its supply from 70% of Scotch Beef to 78% and Scotch Lamb from 75% to 78% - which the South Scotland MSP has welcomed.

On the positive side, Ms Harper has applauded the fact that both Aldi and Lidl supermarkets have chosen to champion Quality Meat Scotland brand products - Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Scotch Pork brand with 100% of both products in both stores.

 

emma harper

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“I am concerned that quantities of Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Scotch pork have been diminishing on the shelves of some of the country’s leading supermarkets.

“Supermarkets should be supporting Scottish food and drink brands and farmers, now more than ever, and providing customers with quality, locally reared produce.

“Scotland has been internationally recognised for having the finest quality beef and lamb in the world. I want to take the opportunity to applaud Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl who have recognised this, and who have been stocking increased quantities of Scottish meat products.

“All Scottish politicians should be supporting our farmers, producers and consumers by protecting the Scottish quality meat brand. Additionally, I call on supermarkets in Scotland to, as far as possible, stock Scottish meat products.

“It is also worth noting, since my election, I have been fighting to ensure, after the UK leaves that EU, that our Scottish produce is protected from cheap and inferior imitation from other countries through ensuring that they remain protected through Protected Geographical Indication Status – currently provided by the EU.”

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said:

“Scottish farmers work hard to produce world-class, quality assured brands such as Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI.  Scottish consumers are rightly concerned that due to Covid-19 the Scotch labels were removed from shelves in some supermarkets and we have been in regular contact, working behind the scenes, with all major supermarkets to get our brands back on their shelves for consumers to purchase and enjoy”.  

 Last month Secretary for State, Alistair Jack and Galloway Member of Parliament, David Mundell attracted much criticism as they failed to protect Scottish farmers by voting against measures in the UK Agricultural Bill that would protect farmers and prevent the Scottish population from being offered cheap imported food.

 

Business Groups Call for UK Government to Re-establish Air Connectivity

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has joined forces with over 20 UK organisations including Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality and Universities UK calling for the UK Government to set out as soon as possible an integrated cross-Government plan to open up the UK to our trading partners. The attached letter calls for the following:

 

 Liz-Cameron-OBE-SSC-320x214

A framework for establishing travel corridors between the UK and low-risk countries to enable exemptions from the blanket quarantine requirements for UK arrivals. A clear set of risk-based criteria should be set out so that businesses can start to plan for a controlled re-opening.

A timeline for returning to risk-based travel advice from the Foreign Office. The indefinite and indiscriminate advice not to travel overseas prevents businesses and individuals from being able to plan with confidence. Government advice should recognise that whilst Covid-19 has struck every corner of the world, it has not struck evenly.

A comprehensive approach to health screening for arrivals into the UK to help control the virus over the coming months. Combined with the UK Government’s track and trace system, this could support the economic recovery by allowing a controlled lifting of restrictions on movement.

 

** **

Dear Secretaries of State,

Businesses across the country rely on the UK being connected to the global economy. Since March, international travel has slowed to a trickle. To the credit of companies up and down the country, not least in the aviation sector, the movement of essential goods has not been affected. However, as we look to recover from the economic shock that Covid-19 has delivered, it will be vital that we start to open the UK up to our trading partners.

 

Over 1.5 million jobs across the UK are supported by air transport and more than 40% of our trade with non-EU countries travels by plane. There are whole sectors of the UK economy – from SMEs to large employers – that simply won’t recover and thrive without international connections: our manufacturers rely on air connections to export goods; our world-class universities get around £6.9 billion a year from international students; our tourism industry accounts for more than 7% of the UK economy; and much of our hospitality sector relies on international visitors. These are some of the UK’s world-beating businesses, providing jobs and opportunity in every nation and region of the country, and they need urgent clarity on when they will be able to get flying again.

 

Any steps taken to relax the restrictions now in place must, of course, prioritise public health. They must be backed by the science and they must be able to command the confidence of the general public. As representatives of the business community from across the UK, covering a range of sectors, we therefore urge you to set out as soon as possible an integrated cross-Government plan that includes:

- A framework for establishing travel corridors between the UK and low-risk countries to enable exemptions from the blanket quarantine requirements for UK arrivals. A clear set of risk-based criteria should be set out so that businesses can start to plan for a controlled reopening.

- A timeline for returning to risk-based travel advice from the Foreign Office. The indefinite and indiscriminate advice not to travel overseas prevents businesses and individuals from being able to plan with confidence. Government advice should recognise that whilst Covid19 has struck every corner of the world, it has not struck evenly.

- A comprehensive approach to health screening for arrivals into the UK to help control the virus over the coming months. Combined with the Government’s track and trace system, this could support the economic recovery by allowing a controlled lifting of restrictions on movement.

 

We are ready to work with the Government to help ensure that the UK not only recovers from the economic effects of Covid-19 but goes on to thrive as a global Britain that delivers prosperity and opportunity for people in every nation and region.

 

Yours sincerely,

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce

David Camp, CEO, Association of Labour Providers

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce

Emma English, Executive Director, British Educational Travel Association

Phil Smith, Managing Director, Business West Chamber of Commerce

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General, Confederation of British Industry

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire)

Steve Philips, Chair, English UK

Mike Cherry OBE, National Chair, Federation of Small Businesses

Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive, Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Clive Memmott, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Richard Burge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive, London First

Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive, Make UK

James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive, North East England Chamber of Commerce

Emma Degg, Chief Executive, North West Business Leadership Team

Henri Murison, Director, Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive, Recruitment and Employment Confederation

Ana Christie, Chief Executive, Sussex Chamber of Commerce

Kurt Jansen, Director, Tourism Alliance

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive, UK Hospitality

Joss Croft, Chief Executive, UK Inbound

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive, Universities UK

Dear Secretaries of State, Businesses across the country rely on the UK being connected to the global economy. Since March, international travel has slowed to a trickle. To the credit of companies up and down the country, not least in the aviation sector, the movement of essential goods has not been affected. However, as we look to recover from the economic shock that Covid-19 has delivered, it will be vital that we start to open the UK up to our trading partners. Over 1.5 million jobs across the UK are supported by air transport and more than 40% of our trade with non-EU countries travels by plane. There are whole sectors of the UK economy – from SMEs to large employers – that simply won’t recover and thrive without international connections: our manufacturers rely on air connections to export goods; our world-class universities get around £6.9 billion a year from international students; our tourism industry accounts for more than 7% of the UK economy; and much of our hospitality sector relies on international visitors. These are some of the UK’s world-beating businesses, providing jobs and opportunity in every nation and region of the country, and they need urgent clarity on when they will be able to get flying again. Any steps taken to relax the restrictions now in place must, of course, prioritise public health. They must be backed by the science and they must be able to command the confidence of the general public. As representatives of the business community from across the UK, covering a range of sectors, we therefore urge you to set out as soon as possible an integrated cross-Government plan that includes: - A framework for establishing travel corridors between the UK and low-risk countries to enable exemptions from the blanket quarantine requirements for UK arrivals. A clear set of risk-based criteria should be set out so that businesses can start to plan for a controlled reopening. - A timeline for returning to risk-based travel advice from the Foreign Office. The indefinite and indiscriminate advice not to travel overseas prevents businesses and individuals from being able to plan with confidence. Government advice should recognise that whilst Covid19 has struck every corner of the world, it has not struck evenly. - A comprehensive approach to health screening for arrivals into the UK to help control the virus over the coming months. Combined with the Government’s track and trace system, this could support the economic recovery by allowing a controlled lifting of restrictions on movement. We are ready to work with the Government to help ensure that the UK not only recovers from the economic effects of Covid-19 but goes on to thrive as a global Britain that delivers prosperity and opportunity for people in every nation and region. Yours sincerely, Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce David Camp, CEO, Association of Labour Providers Dr Adam Marshall, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce Emma English, Executive Director, British Educational Travel Association Phil Smith, Managing Director, Business West Chamber of Commerce Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General, Confederation of British Industry Scott Knowles, Chief Executive, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire) Steve Philips, Chair, English UK Mike Cherry OBE, National Chair, Federation of Small Businesses Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive, Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Clive Memmott, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Richard Burge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive, London First Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive, Make UK James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive, North East England Chamber of Commerce Emma Degg, Chief Executive, North West Business Leadership Team Henri Murison, Director, Northern Powerhouse Partnership Neil Carberry, Chief Executive, Recruitment and Employment Confederation Ana Christie, Chief Executive, Sussex Chamber of Commerce Kurt Jansen, Director, Tourism Alliance Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive, UK Hospitality Joss Croft, Chief Executive, UK Inbound Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive, Universities UK