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SNP demand more support for business as retail sales hit 25-year low


By Gregor White

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The SNP has said the UK government "isn't doing enough to support businesses" as new figures reveal retailers suffered their worst annual sales performance on record in 2020.

New research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggests overall sales fell by 0.3 per cent in 2020, the worst annual change since 1995.

Non-food sales fell by about five per cent, with physical non-food stores suffering a drop in sales of a quarter compared with 2019.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry said UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak must deliver more support, including handing over a "missing "£375 million promised to Scottish firms, extending the furlough scheme through 2021, devolving financial powers, and delivering a "meaningful" fiscal stimulus of at least £98 billion.

Last week, a report from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said 2020 was the worst for high street job losses in over 25 years, with nearly 180,000 retail job losses - up almost a quarter on 2019.

Mr Hendry, SNP Shadow Business Secretary, said: "The SNP has repeatedly warned the Tory government that it is not doing enough to support businesses through the Covid-19 economic crisis - putting many firms and local high streets under threat.

"It is crucial that the Chancellor urgently delivers more support, in the form of grants as well as loans, in order to protect people's livelihoods - or we will see more good businesses go to the wall unnecessarily and unemployment continue to soar.

"We cannot afford more Tory dithering, delays and half-measures when so many jobs and businesses are under threat. The UK government must hand over the missing £375 million it promised Scottish firms, extend the furlough scheme for as long as is necessary, and follow the example of other countries by delivering a fiscal stimulus package of at least £98 billion.

"There must also be meaningful support to boost incomes and help the growing number of unemployed people.

"That must include support for the three million excluded and a permanent uplift to Universal Credit and legacy benefits - so that no one is left behind.

"The Tory government has withheld investment and blocked the devolution of financial powers throughout this crisis - leaving Scotland to respond with one hand tied behind its back, while other independent countries have been able to utilise the full range of powers.

"Scotland shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act. It is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland's interests, and secure a strong and fair recovery, is to become an independent country."


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