SNP deputy chief scrambles to defend Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid plan ‘Not waiting for UK’

John Swinney addresses Omicron support for businesses

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John Swinney defended First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to act quickly in the wake of the new variant Omicron. A £100 million fund is going to be made available to compensate hospitality businesses but the fund is not on offer for retail businesses, they will have to bear the cost of the new restrictions which are likely to have an effect on the Christmas economy. Mr Swinney scrambled to back Ms Sturgeon’s choice to amend Covid regulations as he was challenged about the funds made available to Scottish business to cope with the fallout of the new measures.

BBC’s The Nine host Laura Miller said: “Going back to the £100 million that you have made available from the Scottish budget, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce have said that this will not go anywhere near far enough to cover the financial losses being incurred.

“What is your message to those businesses tonight that are worried about the money they have already lost?”

Mr Swinney said: “The first thing I would say is that I acknowledge the difficulties that some businesses are facing as a consequence of the decisions that we’re having to take.

“But we’re having to take these decisions to protect the public and no one will thank us if we end up in a situation where the National Health Service is overwhelmed.

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“Because we haven’t acted quickly enough or dramatically enough to stem Omicron which is a big threat to our society.

“The second thing I would say is that the Scottish government has taken the decisions, we’ve not waited for the UK government to come up with the money.

“We have taken the hard decisions internally to put as much resource into this as we possibly can do and we will engage with the UK government to put further resources to try to address what I recognise to be a very difficult situation.

Speaking on the new regulations, the First Minister said: “For example in retail, it will involve a return to the kind of protection in place at the start of the pandemic for example measures to avoid crowding and bottlenecks.

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Ms Sturgeon added: “This will include physical distancing, measures to control the flow of customers, and protective screens.

“I am hugely grateful to employers who are already allowing staff to work at home where possible, but we are not yet maximising the impact of home working to reduce the overall number of contacts we are having.

“We have extended the workplace testing scheme, which delivers lateral flow kits twice a week to all businesses who have signed up to it. I would encourage any business with 10 or more employees to join up and encourage staff to test regularly.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We will also be reinforcing the rules and public health messaging on the importance of wearing face coverings and wearing them properly.”

The new measures for those living in Scottland will be introduced for the hospitality sectors which includes, bars, restaurants, and recreation and amusement attractions.

The new rules are being implemented to avoid crowding, it is also a requirement to collect the contact details of dinners.

Key workers who work in the healthcare sector have not been advised to work from home, but regular testing will be available for them.

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