‘Shockwaves’: Business concern at Sturgeon’s call to defer Christmas parties

NICOLA Sturgeon’s warning for work Christmas parties to be deferred until next year has sent “shockwaves” through the business community.

Pub bosses have warned that urgent financial support is now required to avoid widespread redundancies in the industry.

Following similar advice from health officials to think again about festive work gatherings, the First Minister warned that some Christmas events could result in “lots of people becoming super-spreaders” of the new worrying Omicron variant.

Ms Sturgeon called on the public to “think a bit more carefully about unnecessary social contacts”.

She added: If that happens, lots of people get infected and if these are work events, as well as the risk to individual health, there is a risk to the ability of the workplace to operate as people have to isolate.

“So the public health advice – which I have no alternative but to agree with given the evidence of risk that I know about and have now shared with you – is that we should all think a bit more carefully about unnecessary contacts, especially in crowded places just now. And that it would be sensible to defer work Christmas parties.”

READ MORE: Sturgeon: ‘Think carefully’ about socialising amid warning Scotland on cusp of ‘tsunami’ of Omicron infections

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that “this has a big impact on businesses”, adding that “we are considering – and pressing the UK Government – on financial support”.

But business leaders have warned that more support must be handed over, with the messages set to hit traders hard.

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Business’s (FSB) Scotland policy chair, said: “Today’s statement will send shockwaves through Scotland’s small business community.

“Local restaurants and pubs will bear the brunt of the damage from the message that people should cancel Christmas parties. But there will be a knock-on impact on operators like hairdressers and local shops as people in Scotland think twice before heading out.

“Local firms are more vulnerable now than they were at the start of the crisis because many have exhausted their cash reserves and others are weighed down with debt. It is unsustainable for policymakers to put smaller businesses in a vice by discouraging their customers while not offering them any financial help.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “The First Minister’s announcement, advising against work Christmas parties, will have a major impact on Scotland’s events and hospitality sectors as these businesses are already reporting a surge of last-minute cancellations.

Financial compensation to mitigate the fallout from this intervention must be made available immediately to businesses. We cannot see a repeat of March 2020 where the hospitality sector was essentially closed down without any financial support being put in place until weeks after the lockdown decision. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

“Scotland’s vaccine rollout is leading the UK and we urge everyone that can to get the vaccine and boosters when eligible. Businesses will continue to do everything at our disposal to prevent the spread of the virus and keep our customers, clients and employees safe.”

CEO of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, said: “The warnings around the potential impacts of the omicron variant and recommendations to cancel Christmas parties are now having a devastating impact on Scotland’s pubs and the wider hospitality sector. 

“With no financial support or furlough scheme this is a very, very worrying time for businesses and their staff.

“If we are going to avoid mass redundancies in the sector, we require immediate, meaningful economic support to be announced now. We cannot allow thousands of staff to be fearing for their livelihoods like this, especially at this time of year.”

Read More: ‘Shockwaves’: Business concern at Sturgeon’s call to defer Christmas parties

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