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Humza Yousaf is elected SNP leader – what does that mean for Strathy businesses?

By Rachel Smart

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Humza Yousaf. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Humza Yousaf. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Humza Yousaf was today elected the leader of the Scottish National Party, and as of tomorrow will be Scotland’s sixth First Minister – but what does that mean for Highland businesses?

Alongside the cost-of-living crisis and soaring inflation, businesses have warned that unnecessary pressure is being put on them due to a string of new and proposed Scottish Government regulations.

These include short-term lets licensing, the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), the local visitor levy and the proposed restrictions on the advertising and promotion of alcohol.

At the Inverness Courier Leadership Debate, Humza Yousaf was pressed on these issues, and the impact that they will have on Highland businesses.

On March 17 he stated that he would provide a grace period or exclude small businesses from the DRS, but he would not stop it. He said: "The DRS should not be paused, but we should exclude or pause it for small businesses.

"It is not the gin craft distilleries or small breweries who are causing the litter on the street.

"But, why should we let the Coca-Colas and Pepsis of the world get off with it, when they account for about 90 per cent of the volume of waste that is produced?"

He also said that the alcohol advertising consultation should be withdrawn as some of it, the Scottish Government would not do anyway, but instead work with the public health agencies to change the relationship Scottish people have with alcohol.

The health secretary stated: "Scotland has an exceptionally unhealthy relationship with alcohol, we have to accept that.

"We are suggesting to change that relationship. We should withdraw the consultation as some of it we are not going to do anyway and it is causing concern amongst business, so let's work both with business and with public health charities."

However, he did say that the short-term let licensing should stay in place, due to the lack of affordable housing in Scotland available to people. He stated that it was 'a good thing to keep and he would keep that in place'. He stated that the tourism levy is ultimately up to local authorities, as if it helps the local authority to raise some extra revenue then it 'was no bad thing'.

He said: "I would hate to be a young person in the Highlands or Inverness looking to be on the housing market. We need more affordable housing available for our young people."

Now that he is First Minister, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether he will support Highland businesses with the issues at play.

Responding to Humza Yousaf’s victory in the SNP leadership election, the Federation of Small Business’ (FSB) Scotland policy chairman, Andrew McRae, said:

“Humza Yousaf’s in tray won’t be light on big issues that need urgent attention. But his top priority must be getting the economy back on its feet and that means, on day one, action on energy bills and regulation.

“On regulation, Humza Yousaf was not alone in his campaign in raising doubts about the viability of DRS, which itself is symptomatic of a broader culture of well-intentioned but poorly executed regulations.

“As incoming First Minister, he has a unique opportunity to stop and take stock of all of the new regulatory schemes coming down the road and their cumulative impact.

“By taking this pause, the First Minister can then lead an exercise in listening to the voices of those who will be charged with the day-to-day execution of these plans – small business owners. By meaningfully understanding some of the pitfalls around the planning and implementation of new schemes, they can be redesigned in a way that makes sure that they are far likelier to succeed.”

Food and Drink Federation Scotland’s chief executive officer David Thomson said: “Scotland has a fantastic food and drink industry, supporting everyone’s daily lives and providing great jobs and careers across the country. Our success is central to driving sustainable economic growth for Scotland.

“However, our food and drink producers continue to face significant pressure as they grapple with persistent cost rises.

“It’s vital that the new First Minister supports our industry and keeps costs down for Scotland’s households.

“We look forward to an early meeting with the First Minister to discuss how we can work together to ensure the future success of Scotland’s food and drink industry.”

Responding to the announcement that Humza Yousaf MSP has successfully become the new SNP leader and First Minister, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added:

“We congratulate Humza Yousaf on his successful campaign to become the new First Minister. We look forward to working closely with him to restore business confidence and investment, enabling the Scottish economy to drive forward.

“As we outlined to all the leadership candidates in our open letter last week, there are serious challenges in every sector across the economy. The cost of doing business, labour shortages, lagging infrastructure, are all drags on growth and investment. We urge Humza Yousaf to take a pro-business approach with a new cabinet, to help build a build a globally competitive economy and to truly back Scottish business.”

Now that Humza Yousaf has been elected, The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has called for a swift “reset” with business in the wake of turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic, Brexit and ‘misplaced’ legislation.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said: “Hospitality businesses and the licensed trade make a major contribution to Scotland’s economy and its important tourism industry – we are also a major employer across the length and breadth of the country.

“However, companies are weighed down by ill-thought-through legislation at a time when they are still recovering from the pandemic, dealing with severe staff shortages and struggling with the realities of spiralling cost-of-living issues and rising costs of doing business. We need to see an urgent reset in the relationship between the Scottish Government and the business community.

“We urge Mr Yousaf to pause the deposit return scheme (DRS) until a more business-friendly solution can be found for those smaller businesses that will have to deal with the time-consuming bureaucracy and unnecessary layers of administration.

“In addition, we would seek dialogue at the earliest opportunity to discuss the proposed restrictions on alcohol advertising sponsorship which will impact on many everyday aspects of pub life.”

Scottish Trades Union Congress, general secretary Roz Foyer said: “We welcome Humza Yousaf to his post and look forward to working with them on behalf of Scotland’s workers. During the campaign, Humza made clear commitments to our movement on tax proposals, the national care service and the cost-of-living crisis.

“We look forward to seeing those delivered and would invite the First Minister to meet with the STUC as soon as possible, recommitting their support for our movement and workers across Scotland.

“This past year has shown the strength of working people standing united to improve their terms and conditions during this cost-of-living crisis. Under their new leadership, the First Minister has a choice: they can continue to work with the STUC to embed Fair Work and positive industrial relations that deliver for working people across Scotland or they can choose a different path. We would invite them to choose the former.”

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