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MSP sounds warning over coronavirus impact on north jobs

By Alan Beresford

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THE impact of Covid-19 on jobs and businesses in the Highlands and Islands has been raised at Holyrood by regional MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.

Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Questioning Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop during Economy Questions, the Conservative MSP said that the loss of even one business, or a small number of jobs, could have a disproportionate impact on some local communities.

Speaking later, Mr Halcro Johnston warned that the impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods in the region did not appear to be fully appreciated by the Scottish Government and called on them to ensure that local business support agencies were tasked and adequately resourced to support businesses and jobs across the region.

He said: “While much attention has been devoted to the measures required to control Covid-19 in the Central Belt, the economic impact those measures are having in my region does not seem to be sufficiently understood.

“The Highlands and Islands relies, more than any other region in Scotland, on our tourism and hospitality industry and that, in turn, depends on visitors being able to come here from areas like the Central Belt.

“With restrictions on visitors in place, we are facing a very bleak prospect, with severe impacts on small communities – where local businesses are often dependent on each other. We are already seeing a worrying number of businesses struggle, even with additional support, as we head into the winter.

“The Scottish Government needs to recognise the just how vulnerable some of these communities’ local economies can be, and that we really are a special case in that respect.

“SNP ministers must recognise our particular circumstances and respond in a way that provides local businesses with the reassurance that measures will be put in place to support them.

“And they must ensure that local agencies – such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise and local Business Gateways – are properly focused and resourced on supporting businesses and protecting the jobs they provide.”

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