Welcome to the updated SWA Covid-19 support hub. Over the past few weeks we’ve been dealing with a fast-moving business environment. Our primary focus has been to support you and answer your queries about business support.
Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to tell us how much the regular Covid-19 updates have been appreciated – you can take a look at the latest updates and useful links below.
SWA meeting with Anne McLaughlin MP – Wed 19th August 2pm
Glasgow North East MP Anne McLaughlin has more wholesale businesses in her constituency than any other Scottish MP. In the past few weeks she has been helping our sector by tabling Parliamentary Questions and writing to the Chancellor supporting SWA’s call for business rates relief.
Myself and Margaret Smith will be “meeting” with Anne on 19th August and she has asked to meet with local Glasgow wholesalers. Margaret will be in touch with constituency businesses in the next few days with details of the call.
Scottish Government announces fund to help larger hotels
Scottish Government Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a £14m hotel recovery programme aiming to secure up to 3,000 jobs at Scotland's larger hotels through the winter. Eligible businesses can apply for individual grants of up to £250,000.
VisitScotland will also deliver £1m in grants to self-catering businesses that have not received any other Scottish government Covid-19 support. Businesses that meet the criteria will be eligible for a one-off £10,000 grant to support them until summer 2021.
First Minister Updates
The FM yesterday announced phase 3 would continue for some time and warned a move to phase 4 might not take place at the next review in three weeks. However, she said prevalence of the virus was at a very low level, with an estimated 300 infectious cases last Friday and the R number remaining below 1.
Scottish schools will reopen from Tuesday 11 August. Local authorities may opt for a phased return to school but all pupils are expected to be back in school by Tuesday 18 August. Physical distancing will not be expected in the school estate, although it is recommended where possible in secondary schools.
The First Minister said further changes could not yet be confirmed, but gave indicative dates for reopening.
From Monday 24 August:
- Some outdoor cultural events may resume with physical distancing and restricted numbers.
- Outdoor contact sports for all ages may be permitted.
- Bingo halls and other entertainment venues may return.
- Funfairs and travelling funfairs may be permitted.
- Driving lessons may be permitted.
From Monday 14 September:
- Gyms and indoor swimming pools may reopen.
- Sports stadiums may reopen with limited numbers. Professional sports events might be held before then with some fans as trials.
- Indoor sports courts may reopen. Classes for children may resume sooner.
- Indoor entertainment and culture venues may reopen. The Performing Arts Relief Fund has been increased from £10m to £12.5m to support the sector.
Not before Monday 14 September:
- Non-essential offices and call centres reopening will be subject to further review. Working from home and flexible working remains the default.
FM warns Hospitality sector
The First Minister has warned the hospitality sector that they could be shut down again if they did not comply with guidance. She said the Scottish Government was aware of businesses that were not following guidance on cleaning, distancing and record keeping but she believed the majority of businesses are following the rules. The SG has issued supplementary guidance for the sector. This is not yet listed on the Government website. Further information can be found here https://sltn.co.uk/2020/07/28/sturgeon-non-compliance-could-see-venues-shut-again/
£10 million funding for Scotland's events sector
SWA await more detail on a SG funding package of £10 million that has been established to help the events sector recover from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Funding streams will be set up to provide direct support to organisers of cultural, community, and sporting events, as well as to supply chain firms facing hardship, to help keep them in business while restrictions on events are still in place. It will also look to increase community engagement, and support adaptations to event delivery to enable a safe restart.
SWA Receive response from DEFRA Secretary
On 14th March , as the scale of the challenge ahead of us was becoming apparent, SWA wrote to UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice MP. We have just received the attached response. Unfortunately, while Mr Eustice acknowledges the role wholesalers have played the letter contains nothing new in terms of support for our sector.
It is particularly disappointing that he refers to the Trade Credit Insurance (TCI) but gave no indication on how quickly this was being implemented, nor recognising that not all wholesalers would benefit as it’s not compulsory for insurers to sign up to participate in the scheme.
Mr Eustice said “You may also have seen the announcement on trade credit insurance (TCI). The new scheme aims to support businesses who rely on TCI and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover, due to the impact of COVID-19. The Government will temporarily provide guarantees on business-to-business transactions currently supported by TCI, through a reinsurance agreement with TCI providers. This will allow providers to continue to underwrite cover and offer credit limits. The aim is to ensure that supply chains continue to be protected from the potential domino effect of trade disruption and business defaults. It will, additionally, facilitate the UK’s economic recovery by helping businesses to resume trading under their normal terms as soon as possible. We anticipate that the scheme will particularly benefit wholesalers and food and drink manufacturers, especially as the restart phase begins and businesses start to scale up again.”
SG Test & Protect Toolkit
As lockdown continues to ease, more restrictions are being lifted and the most vulnerable are coming out of shielding. Now more than ever, Test and Protect continues to be critical in helping us control the spread of the virus.
Attached is the SG latest Test and Protect – Stage 2 Stakeholder Toolkit. This includes updated assets to reflect the most recent guidance, so please discontinue use of previous assets and update your channels with the revised creative.
UK Internal Market Consultation- What’s it all about ?
On 16 July 2020, the UK Government published a White Paper setting out proposals for a UK internal market. A consultation period on these proposals has now started and will run to 13 August 2020.
Legislation is expected to follow in Autumn 2020, prior to the end of the Brexit transition phase on 31 December 2020. The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre are publishing a series of explanatory blogs on the subject and SWA would be interested in members’ views on the white paper.
The SG have said UKG plans will weaken the ability of the Scottish Parliament to make distinctive laws and protect Scottish interests but it has been working on frameworks with the UK Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive and is committed to common agreed standards where required.
UK Government announces "Better Health" campaign to help people lose weight.
A number of measures have been announced by the UKG as part of their new Obesity Strategy. The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from COVID-19. This plan is being launched alongside a new “Better Health” campaign, led by Public Health England.
Some announcements will impact on Scotland including a consultation on providing calorie labelling on alcohol and on the current ‘traffic light' food calorie labelling system. New laws to ban the advertising of food high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) on television and online before 9pm would be UK wide.
The UKG will also hold a new short consultation on whether the ban on online adverts for HFSS, should apply at all times of day. Plans to restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar, and to introduce calorie labelling on out of home food purchases echo plans which the Scottish Government and Food Standards Scotland have put on hold due to the pandemic.
UK Govt - National Food Strategy report published
Part One of the two-part National Food Strategy has been published by Independent Reviewer Henry Dimbleby, the Lead non- executive Director at Defra and Co-founder of Leon. As the governance of food and health is devolved the Inquiry’s remit was predominantly to create a strategy for England. However, recommendations on international trade are UK wide and DEFRA have been working with devolved administrations on the report. The Report Advisory Panel included Andrew Selley – Chief Executive, Bidfood
UK Government announces CBILS expansion
The UKG have announced that more small businesses can now benefit from loans of up to £5 million under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Previously businesses which were classed as ‘undertakings in difficulty' were unable to access CBILS because of EU rules.
From now, businesses in this category which have fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £9 million can apply to CBILS. The Treasury have written to banks setting out their expectation that these changes will be implemented to ensure more businesses are receiving support. Undertakings in difficulty are usually businesses with high levels of debt and accumulated losses. Banks will receive guidance on how to identify undertakings in difficulty, which will help viable larger businesses access support too. Undertakings in difficulty are already eligible for Bounce Back Loans subject to de minimis State Aid limits.
Meanwhile the Chair of Westminster’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, has written to Secretary of State for Business Alok Sharma outlining concerns about the behaviour of banks and other key issues for the Government to address in its approach to support for business and workers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown.
SG Announce £100m Fund for Employment
In a statement to Parliament yesterday, Fiona Hyslop announced the Government’s plans for £100m of funding for employment support and training. She said at least £50m would be set aside to help young people into work, with a new job guarantee for young people and a national retraining scheme. She said the SG aimed to maximise resources to provide tailored support for sectors with those facing redundancies.
Sandy Begbie, who led the Developing the Young Workforce Group (DYW) that played a pivotal role in the delivery of the Edinburgh Guarantee to young people, has been asked to develop an implementation plan for a job guarantee for young people. SWA have today been in contact with DYW to discuss how the wholesale workforce could be included within such plans.
Zero Waste: Food & Drink Advice & Support
Please find attached a comms pack from Zero Waste Scotland about a FREE support and advice service that they are offering businesses to help reduce food and drink waste. While potentially more relevant for your own customers, SWA have been speaking to ZWS about how they can help reduce/redistribute the ‘potential food waste’ accruing within our members warehouses/depots.
Can members please let me know if you have been successful in getting any of the Fareshare foodbank contracts, recently being awarded using SG monies. Initial SWA discussions with Fareshare and utilising wholesalers for their purchases, rather than supermarkets, was promising with some members getting orders. However we are unsure if this continued beyond initial orders and would like any feedback so that we can pursue with SG.
Scottish Unemployment Figures
Unemployment rate in Scotland rises to 4.3%, while UK unemployment rate is 3.9%. The figures do not include the estimated 750,000 workers on furlough. The British Chambers of Commerce has also published its quarterly recruitment outlook in partnership with Totaljobs. According to the survey, 29% of businesses expect to reduce the size of their workforce in the next three months before the end of the Job Retention Scheme.
UKG to Protect Internal Flow of Goods
The UK Government has published the internal market white paper, which sets out options to protect the flow of goods and services in the UK’s internal market. The Government also said no currently devolved powers would become reserved and Scotland would receive 111 new powers in areas including employment law, land use and air quality. The consultation on the UK internal market will run until Thursday 13 August. A report on identifying and analysing existing non-tariff measures in the UK internal market has also been published.
Commons Treasury Committee session on the Economic Impact of Coronavirus
In yesterday’s Commons Treasury Committee session, looking at the Economic Impact of Coronavirus, there were some questions and replies by Rishi Sunak which will be considered within SWA’s future lobbying of SG and UKG.
Mel Stride MP noted people had fallen through the gaps and had not qualified for any support schemes, due to what HMRC had called administrative complexity. He asked whether they would get support if these complexities could be overcome. Mr Sunak said the Government had put in place unprecedented support throughout the crisis but given all the different circumstances not every single person would feel they had been helped as they would like. Now the Government had to look forward and it had no intention of introducing new schemes but would instead aim to protect jobs and plan for recovery.
Angela Eagle MP asked if instead of subsidising every furloughed job, the Government could have focused the scheme on a more sectorial basis. Mr Sunak said implementing a targeted scheme in practice would be very difficult and not feasible to deliver. He asked her which sectors she though should not be eligible for the job retention bonus. Ms Eagle said different sectors were affected differently and some still could not open because of Government diktat.
Ms Buchan asked if there was a risk that VAT cuts would not be passed on to the consumer and the money would become an extra grant for those sectors. Mr Sunak said businesses had been doing a difficult job during the crisis. The last time there had been a generalised VAT cut in 2008-09 about four out of five businesses had passed that saving on to consumers. The scheme would fundamentally make it easier to safeguard jobs, Mr Sunak said.
She went on to ask why the scheme would end on January 12th given that was a time people should be encouraged to go out to restaurants and bars. Mr Sunak said the Government could not do the scheme for too long because it was very expensive. Given the country was just coming out of lockdown the Government felt the time to act was now.
Ms Buchan also asked why alcoholic drinks did not come under the VAT reduction. Mr Sunak said there was a public health imperative alongside it and both Ireland and France had done the same.
SWA Helps Members Secure £1.9m PERF Funding
SG has updated its list of support measure given the food and drink supply chain, including wholesale, during the coronavirus pandemic.
The most significant element for our members has been the PERF grants. SWA are delighted to have helped members secure £1.9m of funding!
We have individually worked with many of you, during the application and appeal stages, to secure this funding. So far, 65% of SWA members who applied for PERF have been successful and were awarded a grant averaging £79,000.
We are still awaiting the outcome of further member appeals and are hopeful that the total will reach £2m. We are continuing to lobby Ministers and officials on this issue.
However, while the grant has been a much needed lifeline for those who got it, it still means that only 45% of the total number of wholesale operators in Scotland have had any Scottish Government support. This is in contrast with the retail and hospitality markets that have been granted additional funds in various forms, including business rates relief.
Members should be assured that the fight for further, ongoing and long term support is far from over! This was the clear message Margaret Smith and I made to Fergus Ewing on a call earlier this week.
While we are grateful to SG for working closely with us, listening to our members and ensuring that wholesalers have secured the highest percentage of PERF grants of any sector we never forget (or let them forget) that 55% of our industry have not had any support (out with furlough and costly loans). For this reason, and because we don’t want Government(s) thinking wholesale no longer needs any more support, SWA will not be actively publicising this success and the work we’ve undertaken on members behalf in helping secure the Grants.
We hope that individually you recognise what can be achieved by a strong association, one that cares passionately about its’ members and which encourages the collective working of its’ membership.
Scotland Enters Phase 3 of Routemap
The First Minister today confirmed that Scotland will officially move to Phase 3 of the route map out of lockdown. With the exception of retail, transport and Hospitality (guidance still tbc), 2m will remain the default position and face coverings will be mandatory within retail as of tomorrow (with some exceptions for young & people with health issues).
Official guidance on face coverings was expected to be published today but this has not yet come to pass, as of writing this update.
Highlights confirmed today:-
From Friday 10th July:
- Those that are shielding will no longer be asked to socially distance with those they live with and those living on their own can form an extended household with another household.
- Up to 15 people from five different households will be able to meet outdoors.
- Eight people from three different households will be able to meet indoors, with the option for overnight stays, providing social distancing and hygiene measures are adhered to.
- Adults should not meet with more than four different households in the same day when moving between outdoor and indoor activity.
From Monday 13th July:
- Organised outdoor sports for children and young people can resume.
- Non-essential retail outlets in shopping centres can reopen, subject to adherence to hygiene measures and public health guidance.
- Further resumption of public services, such as optometry services for essential and emergency eye care can resume.
Wednesday 15th July:
- Cafes, restaurants and pubs can reopen, and it is essential that all public health guidance is followed on these premises.
- Outdoor and indoor hospitality will be exempt from following the two metre rule and be subject to guidance and measures agreed on by trade unions, which would include clear signage for customers and strict hygiene measures. (Full guidance still awaited).
- The tourism sector will be able to reopen so long as public health guidance is followed.
- Libraries, museums, galleries and cinemas will reopen although tickets will have to be procured in advance and public health measures will have to be followed.
- The childcare sector will be able to fully reopen.
- Hairdressers will be able to reopen subject to hygiene guidance that will be published soon.
From 22nd July:
- Universities and colleges can prepare for a phased return to on-campus learning as part of a blended model with remote teaching.
Further information on the routemap, physical distancing and quarantine measures can be found using the links below:
Questions Over why Wholesale Omitted for Council Grants
Oliver Mundell MSP Has been is assisting some SWA members, who are being refused Local Council Grants and Rates Relief support in his Dumfriesshire constituency. He has tabled the Parliamentary Question below, which has been inspired by fact that while some wholesalers have been granted local Council Grants, the majority have been refused, despite being of similar size and circumstance.
Question S5W-30567: Oliver Mundell, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 08/07/2020
To ask the Scottish Government for what reason wholesale businesses that supply the retail and hospitality sector are not included in the £25,000 retail, hospitality and leisure business support grant.
Kate Forbes Disputes Treasury’s Claim on £800m of Consequentials
In reply to the Chancellor’s autumn statement yesterday, SG Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes welcomed the temporary cut to VAT, but suggested it should be made permanent to properly assist the tourism and hospitality sector.
She also disputed the Treasury’s claim of £800m of consequentials being given to Scotland. This, she said, related to announcements already made over the last few weeks and included funding for PPE which could not be classified as a fiscal stimulus.
The SNP has also claimed the UK Government has put the Scottish economic recovery at risk by refusing to extend the furlough scheme beyond October or devolve fiscal powers to the Scottish Parliament.
This latter point is extremely important to SWA and our ongoing quest for further targeted Wholesale support, including business rates relief, direct from SG. Without further consequential funding coming from UKG, or SG being allowed to borrow above its’ existing limits, any future monetary support mechanisms are reliant on UKG or on SG diverting existing funds currently in place from other policies.
Eat Out to Help Out Scheme
The UKG have published further details on their ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme announced yesterday, which includes workplace canteens as being eligible. Registration goes live on 13th July and the scheme will run every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3rd to 31st August.
Scottish hospitality and tourism bodies have asked UKG that it be extended to include the last two weeks of July, so as to cover the last 4 weeks of the Scottish school holidays.
Face Coverings in Retail - Update
Following the announcement, last week, on the wearing of face coverings within retail shops from 10th July. Further to discussions today with SG, we can confirm the following:
- The regulations will include mention of wholesalers but only affect those that are open to the “public”.
- Preliminary draft legislative wording states that :
- In addition to retail shops “The guidance will apply in indoor shopping malls including those with covered walkways, retail service settings such as hairdressers and in wholesale settings where members of the public are present.”
- “It is recognised that there may be certain tasks that staff in food shops need to carry out where face coverings may not be appropriate. For example, where staff are handling food items or preparing meals and it is assessed that the wearing of a mask could increase the risk of other types of infection (non-COVID) from getting into the food which could potentially make it unsafe.“
- “Customers in retail environments are required to wear a face covering but there are exemptions, which include:
- Children under 5.
- People with health conditions who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness or impairment or disability or without severe distress.
- If people need to take medication or to eat or drink where reasonable necessary.
- Temporary removal to comply with a request by a relevant person or another person acting in the course of their duties
- For customers with a hearing impairment and those who lip-read, and remove the face coverings, as necessary, to provide advice, information or assistance.
- For age-related sales customers are asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff.
- In some food-handling settings where the wearing of a mask could compromise the hygiene practices that are already in place to ensure food safety.”
- SWA have had it confirmed that within Wholesale, the “public” are those who are not a registered business or trade customer.
With reference to wholesalers making deliveries into retail premises, the legislation is not going to be prescriptive and mandate such delivery personnel wear a face covering.
However, to avoid potential flash points within the retail setting (either with members of the public or the retailer themselves) it would be good practice to have delivery personnel wear a face covering for this element of the delivery. There is currently no guidance on the application or removal/disposal of said face covering within this context. However guidelines that may accompany the legislation, relating to the removal of face coverings for the purposes of ID verification on aged related goods, may include individuals having to sanitise their hands before removing their face masks and again after putting it on. Thus the same principles could be applied to delivery personnel applying and removing the covering, with future disposal including a safely stored and sealable bag for at the end of its use.
In relation to ‘trade visitors’ (ie supplier representatives) to wholesale premises/depots, the legislation pertaining to face coverings does not impact current practices wholesalers have already implemented. So long as physical distancing and other measures (ie hand sanitising / regular hand washing / screens) are undertaken, to ensure the safety of both the employee and visitor, face coverings are not required. The exception again is where wholesalers are open to the public and guidance is still being sought for the wearing in ‘behind the scenes’ areas, albeit initial indications are that it’s only required at ‘public’ facing points.
SWA will keep you updated on the final legislation wording and requirements.
SWA Sign CMA Statement
SWA, last week, signed up to the Competition & Markets Authority statement against price gouging within the market. The full statement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cma-and-trade-bodies-joint-statement-against-price-gouging/joint-statement-against-price-gouging
First Meeting of Scot. Tourism Recovery Taskforce (STRT)
The first meeting of the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce (STRT) took place yesterday. SWA sit on this taskforce along with 39 other trade bodies and tourism groups, including Visit Scotland; Scot Tourism Alliance; Scot.Food & Drink; UKHospitality and also includes, SWA wholesale member, “Taste of Arran”…which doubles the wholesale representation on this group!
While the taskforce will be split into three workshops, the overall recommendations of the group will look at Stimulus Packages for the Tourism sector, focusing on: Fiscal; Monetary; Targeted Assistance and Restoring Trust & Confidence.
During the opening meeting, SWA have asked/raised:
- The same impact faced by the tourism sector flows back up the supply chain to wholesalers who are the primary source ‘feeding’ those businesses.
- Any support measures or stimulus packages need to include the Wholesale supply chain
- What learnings from the convenience channel can cross over into hospitality/tourism to help build consumer confidence during re-opening. [Reference was given to TWC report where 94% of c-store customers feel safe visiting a c-store versus a supermarket].
- Time is of the essence & STRT should make interim recommendations to SG, that can be implemented quickly, otherwise businesses may be closed and opportunity lost
In his closing remarks, the chair of STRT, Fergus Ewing acknowledged that “we have to have high ambition” and recommendations shouldn’t be limited to current budgets. He also acknowledged the need for future support which “…will be required as we’ve heard from Alistair [Taste of Arran], Colin [SWA] and Stephen [Crieff Hydro].” However the challenge is to come up with a sensible, practical and necessary list of asks which can get traction from UKG and Treasury.
Wholesaler’s Plight Raised During Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster
Members will recall that SWA held a briefing call with Deidre Brock, SNP spokesperson for DEFRA, earlier this week. Yesterday, she specifically named SWA & raised this meeting during a Scottish Affairs Committee evidence session into the ‘Impact of C-19 on the Food & Drink Sector’. She posed a question of those giving evidence (including Scotland Food & Drink) on the impacts caused within the wholesale sector and asked:
“Do you feel the industry voice is being heard & taken into account in the decision making by UK Government? In particular the difficult time Scottish wholesalers are going through at the moment, with little support from UKG or proper acknowledgement of the difficulties there and, where without support, many of those business may be forced to close.”
Deidre, also stated that she doesn’t think many people, including within government, realise the difficulties faced by wholesalers who supply restaurants, hotels, public services, hospitals and councils. She also raised the knock on effects and increasing costs to our channel.
Meanwhile , the huge amount of work done by food and drink wholesalers was also raised at in the Scottish Parliament's Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee Food sector evidence session on Wednesday.
SG Updates & ‘Face Coverings’ Poster Launched ahead of Potential Mandating
In relation to the re-opening of retail shops on Monday, the First Minister today said shops would be provided with advertising material to promote the use of face coverings. While work continues alongside the sector to maximise their voluntary use, which was strongly advised.
A decision regarding their mandatory use would be taken next week, in consideration with the Scientific Advisory Group’s report on social distancing rules. For consumer confidence, and ahead of potential mandating, SWA would suggest that convenience retailers participate in this voluntary code of conduct.
Retailers can download the poster here and the selecting the ‘Supporting Files’ tab on the far right hand-side (located underneath the checklist Download button.)
On social distancing, and contrary to reports Scotland lagged behind England, the FM argued that Scotland was ahead in terms of virus suppression, and felt a cautious approach would be ultimately more beneficial to recovery.
The Education Recovery Group (ERG) met yesterday to progress plans for reopening Scottish schools full-time in August. It agreed to provide advice on whether schools can return safely no later than Thursday 30 July.
VisitScotland Launch ‘Good to Go’ Mark
VisitScotland has announced the launch of a new tourism campaign and industry-standard mark aimed at encouraging staycations and building confidence among consumers ahead of the hospitality and tourism sectors reopening. The ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark will be available for businesses to display in their premises and online.
Tourism and hospitality operators can obtain the mark by completing an online self-assessment at goodtogoscotland.com
‘Bounce back’ plan for Agriculture, Food and Drink Industry Launched
A ‘bounce back’ plan of trade measures for the agriculture, food and drink industry has been announced today to help support businesses that have been impacted by coronavirus.
The new strategic interventions jointly announced by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will offer immediate support to help businesses in the industry grow their trade activity overseas. The measures introduced will support producers, manufacturers and agri-tech companies across the food supply chain, from farm to fork. Open to Scottish businesses who produce and/or export.
· Package of measures designed to turbo charge UK food and drink as the world recovers from coronavirus
· The plan will provide unprecedented help for SMEs and allow them to capitalise on trade agreements being negotiated by DIT with Japan, US, Australia and New Zealand
· Designed in conjunction with business and the devolved administrations, the plan will be driven jointly by Defra and DIT
Full details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bounce-back-plan-for-agriculture-food-and-drink-industry-launched
Retention Scheme (CJRS) Flexible Furlough Starts 1st July
From 1 July, you can claim a more flexible grant for any employee you have previously received a CJRS grant for, and who now returns to work on reduced hours. You can also continue to claim for employees who stay fully furloughed.
You can find guidance on eligibility and how to claim for flexibly furloughed employees by searching for 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' on GOV.UK.
What you need to do next
- claim for periods ending on or before 30 June, by 31 July – this is the last date you can make those claims
- agree the hours and shift patterns that you want your employees to work from 1 July
- pay your employees' wages for the time they’re in work and apply for a job retention scheme grant to cover the remainder of their usual hours for which they are still furloughed
- claim for further furlough periods as needed – the first time you will be able to make a claim for days in July will be 1 July.
VAT cut could help stimulate the economy
Reports indicate the government is considering a temporary cut in VAT to stimulate consumer demand, possibly targeted at sectors such as tourism and restaurants. With announcements potentially as early as next week.
In a new briefing, Inst. for Fiscal Studies researchers show that the case for a temporary VAT cut now is mixed. It could provide an important stimulus to consumer demand if implemented under the right conditions. But its expiration must be carefully timed so as not to choke off a developing recovery.
Defra and Treasury PQ’s Answered
As members know SWA and FWD have been lobbying politicians hard in recent weeks to extend UK business rates relief and support as well as extending the furlough scheme.
Following a briefing from SWA Kenny MacAskill MP (East Lothian) asked Parliamentary Questions of DEFRA and the Treasury on our behalf. Here's the answers . In our opinion, wholesale can easily and fairly be targeted for furlough extension and we’ve already written back to Kenny MacAskill and Deidre Brock highlighting this point.
Treasury question: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he plans to extend eligibility for (a) the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant and (b) Business Rates Relief to food and drink wholesalers that supply hospitality businesses, care homes and schools. (61601)
Answer: Kemi Badenoch (Exchequer Secretary): Business support is a devolved policy and therefore is the responsibility of the devolved administrations. The UK Government has announced £7.4 billion of additional funding to the devolved administrations to respond to COVID-19 and to support people, businesses and public services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means £3.8 billion for the Scottish Government, £2.3 billion for the Welsh Government and £1.3 billion for the Northern Ireland Executive to respond to COVID-19. With regards to the application of the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund and business rates relief in England, the Government recognises that this is a very challenging time for businesses in a wide variety of sectors. Small businesses occupying properties for retail, hospitality or leisure purposes are likely to be particularly affected by COVID-19 due to their reliance on customer footfall, and the fact that they are less likely than larger businesses to have sufficient cash reserves to meet their high fixed property-related costs. The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) is intended to help small businesses in this situation.
Local Authorities (LAs) in England can choose to make discretionary grants to businesses in supply chains, like the wholesale food and drink sector, if they feel there is a particular local economic need. The Government has allocated up to an additional £617 million to LAs to enable them to give discretionary grants. While food and drink wholesalers are not one of the priority groups which Government has asked LAs to focus on, LAs may choose to make payments to businesses outside of these priority groups if they feel there is a local economic need to do so, so long as the business was trading on 11th March, and has not received any other cash grant funded by central Government (with the exception of grants from the SEISS). Small businesses which are not eligible for business grants should still be able to benefit from other elements of the Government’s unprecedented package of support. The Business Support website provides further information about how businesses can access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply - https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder.
Treasury Question: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme beyond October 2020 for the tourism and hospitality sector and its food and drink supply chain. (61602)
Answer: Jesse Norman (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is a temporary scheme in place for eight months starting from 1 March and ending at the end of October.
It is the case that some firms will be affected by coronavirus for longer than others, and the Government will seek to support these firms appropriately. It would be challenging to target the CJRS to specific sectors in a fair and deliverable way, and it may not be the case that this is the most effective or sensible way to provide longer term support for those sectors most affected by coronavirus. The Government will continue to engage with businesses and representative groups with the aim of ensuring that support provided is right for these sectors and for the economy as a whole.
The answer was submitted on 24 Jun 2020 at 08:36.
Defra Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the (a) resilience of food and drink wholesalers during the covid-19 outbreak and (b) importance of their role in delivering food and drink to the (i) tourism, (ii) hospitality and (iii) other sectors. (61604)
Answer: Victoria Prentis (Parliamentary Under Secretary DEFRA): The wholesale sector is hugely important within the food and drink supply chain. To ensure its ongoing viability in difficult circumstances, the UK Government has provided a range of support. Food and drink wholesalers are eligible for a number of schemes, including: the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help keep millions of people in employment and the Discretionary Grant Fund for small and micro businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes.
The Secretary of State speaks to his counterparts in the Scottish Government, including through the Defra multilateral Inter Ministerial Group, on a regular basis when they discuss a range of issues. Discussions also take place regularly at official level and these cover sharing of sectoral information and updates on Government activities. Food supply is a devolved matter. It is therefore for the Scottish Government to decide what discussions they have with their sectors and what support to provide beyond that delivered at UK level in response to the Covid-19 pandemic
Today’s update includes Scotland’s routemap easing and Credit Insurance update that requires an action.
SWA Updates Deidre Brock MP
Myself and Margaret Smith, our public affairs consultant, today had a Zoom call with Deidre Brock MP, SNP Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This meeting was held as part of our lobbying effort of Scottish MPs at Westminster and in support of national efforts trying to secure business rates relief and further wholesale support from UK Government.
At her request on hearing potential Brexit issues for our sector, we highlighted that if the learnings from this Pandemic, and especially a failure by UKG/SG to now understand the critical role wholesalers play within the food and drink supply chain, then wholesale, convenience retail and even hospitality could once again be at the mercy/preference of the mults and discounters. Particularly should food supplies face distribution challenges and/or shortages…even more so in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
From wholesaler comments via FWD, on the challenges they face in having customers reluctant to purchase product with extended ‘best before’ dates, we asked her to question DEFRA or raise a PQ on whether they will raise public awareness of the fact that it’s safe to buy/sell/eat such product, so long as it’s done so within WRAP/FSA guidelines.
Scotland’s Routemap Updates
Today the First Minister announced further easing of Phase 2 and 3 of Scotland’s routemap. She stressed however that if the virus doesn’t continue to be beaten back then “…we can't take these steps forward. And if the virus starts to spread again, the steps we have already taken may need to be reversed.”
While detailed guidance will be published ahead of the key dates below, the indicative dates announced include
- 3 July: Travel distance lifted for leisure & recreation purposes
- 3 July: Self-contained holiday accommodation can open (ie holiday cottages; lodges, or caravans where there are no shared services ).
- 6 July: Outdoor hospitality such as beer gardens will be permitted to re-open
- 10 July: households will be able to meet people from more households outdoors - with physical distancing (details to be confirmed 2nd July).
- 13 July: organised outdoor sports for children and young people, subject to guidance
- 13 July: expect that non essential shops within indoor shopping centres will re-open
- 15 July: households will be able to meet indoors with people from up to two other households, subject to physical distancing
- 15 July: early learning and childcare services will be able to resume but with capacity restrictions
- 15 July: indoor locations such as museums, galleries, monuments, cinemas and libraries will also be able to reopen
- 15 July: pubs and restaurants will open indoors - but on a limited basis initially and subject to a number of conditions. Detailed guidance will be issued as soon as possible.
- 15 July: intention that hairdressers and barbers will re-open..
- Theatres, bingo halls, nightclubs, casinos and other ‘live' entertainment venues as well as other personal retail services will remain closed until a later date.
Physical distancing of 2 metres continues to be required in Scotland. However ahead of Scientific Advisory Group advice on this, and which the FM will receive next week, she made 3 general points:
- “Unless and until we have confidence that the risk of moving away from it in certain circumstances can be mitigated, businesses and individuals must continue to comply with the 2 metres physical distance rule.”
- “We will take a decision on whether to make face coverings mandatory in shops, in light of the advice we receive next week. In the meantime, we will join with the retail sector in a campaign to promote and encourage their use.”
- “To support our test and protect system, businesses in the hospitality sector will be required to take names and contact details of customers and store these for four weeks - so they should be preparing for that now.”
FWD Update: Credit Insurance
A number of members are reporting that trade credit limits have been reduced or withdrawn and they are now on pro-forma terms in some cases, with trade credit removed by insurers. This includes both retail and foodservice wholesalers. We have escalated this with Government who say that insurers need to sign up to participate in the scheme. While cover is backdated to April 1, the application is subject to state aid approval, agreement of full form documentation with insurers, and acceptance of applications from insurers for participation. The Government suggests the trade insurers have:
- Either chosen not signed up to Trade Credit Reinsurance Scheme, or
- Are waiting for their application to process, and are being cautious in the meantime
We have been promised a more detailed response tomorrow. Please let us have any examples of this which we can use when discussing this with Government. (SWA members can also pass to myself for forwarding).
It’s the start of another busy week and today’s update is one of the busiest we’ve sent you in a while. But it’s full of relevant content and summarises a lot of recent work by SWA in supporting you all, large, small, national or independent.
SWA & Wholesale Lobbying Efforts
Today we shared coverage of the wholesalers plight from BBC News at the weekend, on radio and in local press with Scottish Government Ministers.
Following SWA’s help and advice in engaging your MSP’s and MPs, Sutherland Brothers local MP, Jamie Stone, not only wrote to the Chancellor supporting our asks for an extension to business rates relief for wholesalers but also secured a meeting for Sutherland’s to talk directly with UK Treasury. Read the full story here.
While SWA have recently been focussed heavily on supporting individual members get through the PERF appeal process, we’ve also been supporting the ongoing lobbying effort for ALL wholesale members, to protect our industry and jobs. This has included:
- Writing to the Chancellor asking for rates relief and tailored Wholesale packages, supporting the national lobbying effort.
- Writing to the Secretary of State for Scotland , to brief him on the campaign and ask for his support in lobbying the Chancellor as well as asking him to assist a wholesaler in his local constituency.
- Personalising emails to all 59 Scottish MPs and 129 MSPs asking for their support both of their local constituency wholesalers and in lobbying the Chancellor for rates relief extension to wholesalers.We also sent copies of our latest survey
- Daily contact with Fergus Ewing and/or the SG food and drink team.
- Participating in the fortnightly SG Food/Brexit/Covid Industry Resilience Group and other weekly industry roundtable calls.
So far we have 10 MPs who have written to the Chancellor, while others have tabled Parliamentary Questions on our behalf or contacted local councils in support of our asks for financial support for members.
This week we have a video call with Deidre Brock MP, the SNP Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
We have also requested a further call with the SG Finance and Economy Secretaries to update them on our activities and to ensure that if the FWD/SWA efforts at Westminster are successful, Scottish wholesalers get any forthcoming consequentials passed on via SG.
SWA Joins Tourism Taskforce
The SWA have been invited to participate in the new Scottish Government Tourism Recovery Taskforce (STRT)…press release.
Chaired by Fergus Ewing and Jamie Hepburn, the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, the group is responsible for strategic oversight of and advising on, recovery plans in response to the Covid-19 impact on Scottish tourism and hospitality.
STRT is also responsible for liaising with other bodies/groups as necessary and for ensuring that the tourism recovery plan is fully coordinated with wider SG and other relevant sectoral recovery plans and with the tourism strategy Scotland Outlook 2030. It will, also take into account in its activity, wider actions being taken by the UK Government, other devolved administrations and international best practice, including that of the European Union.
Advisory Group on ‘Economic Recovery’ Publishes Report
The Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, chaired by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins,have today published their report "Towards a robust, resilient and wellbeing economy" into which SWA submitted data and members thoughts gathered from our last survey.
Within Tourism and Hospitality it recommends
- SG consider a targeted reduction in business rates to support the sectors’ recovery
- SG should press the UK Government to consider a reduction in VAT.
- Bank finance, a regional approach to business support, digital infrastructure, support for skills and inward investment will be of particular benefit too.
While there is no section dedicated specifically to Wholesale, the report recognises:
- Potential of business failure/disruption within the wholesale and retail channels, from its’ reliance on international markets for both input and supply of goods and labour.
- Retail and wholesale is considered to be a sector poorest in liquidity and less resilient to the crisis. With a need for SG to support those businesses to rebuild working capital.
- A separate, Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research survey, showed there are higher levels of furloughed and unemployed staff in the Hospitality and Tourism sector as well as the Wholesale and Retail sector.
- There is a higher proportion of workers in these sectors residing in accessible rural and remote small-town locations, which has implications for the rural economy in Scotland.
Within our capacity as members of the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce (see above story), SWA will use this report and the recommendations/findings above, to ask that wholesalers are supported as part of the ongoing Tourism and Hospitality sector investments/support packages.
Face Coverings Update
As of today (22nd June) the public must wear a face covering on public transport.
Face coverings must be worn by all passengers and staff or operators in the following settings:
· train services; bus services; taxi and private hire vehicles
· bus stations, railway stations and airports
· ferry services (unless the ferry is open to the elements and physical distancing can be achieved, or the vessel is large enough that physical distancing can be achieved)
· airline services
The SG also strongly recommend that you wear a face covering in other enclosed environments, such as shops, as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the virus.The SG are conducting research on whether or not this should be made compulsory.
Transport Scotland has also issued Guidance for those travelling to and from their place of work. https://www.transport.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/transport-transition-plan/advice-on-how-to-travel-safely/
Full SG guidelines on wearing face masks can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-phase-2-staying-safe-and-protecting-others/pages/face-coverings/
Test & Protect – Business Closures
In the wake of two recent meat processing plant shut-downs, due to Covid infections within the staff, SWA would like to hear if you have had any staff asked to isolate by NHS Test & Protect contact tracers and what this has meant for your business?
Scottish households will be sent information explaining how the Test and Protect system works and setting out what to do if someone develops coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. People with symptoms are urged to get tested straight away, with positive cases then referred to contact tracers.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman said: “NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect plays a vital and central role in protecting all of us and will ensure we move through the phases of our exit strategy. It is a collective effort to help us protect others and save lives. We will continue to lift restrictions if we break the chain of transmission and supress the spread of the virus.”
Guidance for Tourism & Hospitality Sector
Guidance, including operations checklist, to support Scotland's tourism and hospitality sector to reopen safely has been published.
The industry has been asked to prepare for reopening on 15 July, if sufficient progress is made to move to phase 3 of the route-map.
It sets out the key public health measures that will need to be taken to allow safe reopening, including:
- Establishing physical distancing taking account of organisational capacity, queue management, signage and markings
- Enhanced hand hygiene measures and cleaning practice
- Advice on workforce planning, including training and equality issues
- Guidance for customers to ensure they know how to plan ahead and engage safely with the tourism and hospitality sector
MOT: Heavy Vehicle Testing to Restart
From 4th July testing will restart for heavy vehicles. The table below, published on GOV.UK, confirms when vehicles with exemptions will be due for test.
Month MOT was originally due
Date your vehicle must pass its MOT by
30 September 2020
Your vehicle has been given two 3-month exemptions
31 October 2020
Your vehicle has been given two 3-month exemptions
31 August 2020
Your vehicle will get one 3-month exemption
30 September 2020
Your vehicle will get one 3-month exemption
31 October 2020
Your vehicle will get one 3-month exemption
30 November 2020
Your vehicle will get one 3-month exemption
PM prepares to relax 2m rule in England
Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow that the two-metre rule will be relaxed from July 4 in England and that pubs, restaurants and cafés can reopen on that date.
Press reports suggest that the Government's scientific advisers have given the go-ahead for the two-metre social distancing rule to be cut in half. At the weekend Covid briefing Health Secretary Matt Hancock said England is "clearly on track" to further ease lockdown restrictions but that customers may have to register when entering pubs to aid contact tracing.
WHO recommends a distance of at least 1m (just over 3ft), but the UK government's scientific advisers say that distance carries up to 10 times the risk of being 2m apart.
Shielding advice (England Only)
The Government has announced that from 1 August the advice to ‘shield’ will be paused. From this date, Government advice is that colleagues can go to work, if they cannot work from home, as long as the business is Covid-safe. The categorisation of “clinically extremely vulnerable” will remain in place and people in this group should continue to follow the guidance specific to them. After 1 August the Shielded Patient List will be maintained and monitored.
Best Before End (Applies in Scotland albeit is overseen by Food Standards Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland)
FWD is working with Defra to get documentation for use with customers on short-dated BBE stock. In the meantime, Defra say:
“The legal foundation of the WRAP guidance is EU legislation: 1169/2011 EU Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers, Articles 9.1(f), and 24. Under the legislation there is no specific restriction on selling food past its ‘best before’ date. WRAP has produced evidence-based advice to businesses aimed at reducing food waste. Defra have contributed to this advice and are supportive of it.
FWD is also talking to frozen suppliers on whether stock can be relabelled with BBE extension dates. They are looking into this but say they are a number of issues including space, staff, cost and stock already shipped. We will continue to look for a solution on this.
Wholesale in the media
The ongoing issues facing wholesalers and the need for Government support were highlighted in an item on BBC News at the weekend, across TV, radio and the web.
Wholesale leaders also wrote an open letter to The Times calling for business rate relief.
Just a few updates from today but important ones from Scotland and some positive news from Westminster on rates relief.
SG updates – Phase 2 Comes with Caution
The First Minister today announced, as expected, that Scotland is entering Phase 2 of lockdown.
The main points are listed below, however what is particularly disappointing for wholesale is that the ‘outdoor hospitality’ will not be opening this week, as was originally anticipated. It’s obviously a huge blow to those pubs, restaurants, cafes themselves but also to wholesalers that had hoped to see some cash coming back into your business…and who had already started gearing up for it!
Further advice from the Scientific Advisory Group has been commissioned based on emerging evidence suggesting communal spaces such as hospitality can present a higher risk of transmission. While this report is only expected on 2nd July, it will still have to be reviewed before recommendations are made. Therefore SWA doubt that any outdoor spaces will open before the anticipated opening of tourism businesses on 15th July. Thus, in our point of view, it’s possible that both tourism and hospitality businesses may open at the same time.
- Those shielding are now able to go outdoors for exercise from today and from tomorrow can take part in non-contact outdoor activities and can meet one other household, in groups of no more than eight outdoors.
- From tomorrow anyone living alone or only with children under 18 can form an ‘extended household group’ with one other household.
- From 29th June, all retail premises with outdoor entrances and exits can reopen. Ahead of that date local authorities and retailers are urged to plan for the responsible use of public space, such as removing unnecessary street furniture, designing systems to manage queuing and pedestrian thoroughfares, and implementing adequate measures to support physical distancing.
- From Monday, 29 June some indoor workplaces can re-open, including factories, labs and warehouses, subject to strict physical distancing, hygiene and health and safety guidance, but non-essential offices and call centres should remain closed.
It remains SG advice to wear a face covering in enclosed areas where physical distancing is difficult, such as shops, and from Monday, 22 June, it will become mandatory to wear a face covering on all public transport.
Physical distancing guidance remains to stay two metres apart from people outside your household. Advice has also been commissioned on circumstances and settings, including schools and transport, where with additional mitigation it may be possible to balance the risk of a shorter distance.
SWA are really pleased to hear about the positive response received by FWD in the growing support from MPs, of our industry call for business rates relief to be extended to wholesale.
It’s a sign that the combined efforts of industry together, can achieve change and we’d encourage any remaining SWA member, who is still to complete the MP’s letter sent to you last week, to do so urgently. This backs the letters SWA have also sent to all of your Scottish MPs. Please reply asap if you require further assistance in completing them.
Parliamentary activity: Rates Relief Extension
FWD’s work in Parliament on business rates relief continues, with more than 100 MPs making representations on behalf of the sector. Many thanks to all members who have written to their MPs. We received a response from one very senior MP today, who wrote: “I think it looks likely that the Government will move soon to extend business rates relief to wholesalers,” which is the first indication of a change on rate relief. We have also been arranging calls with members and MPs where possible, all of which have received good feedback. As a result of a call today, one MP is speaking to the member’s insurance provider to encourage them to pay out against loss.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Further guidance has been published on how CJRS will work between now and the end of October, when the scheme will end. This includes how employers can bring previously furloughed employees back to work part-time from July 1 and how many employees they can claim for in any one claim.
Please find below updates from Today. we expect the First Minister to announce Phase 2 of Scotland’s lockdown and allow the reopening of some non-essential goods.
PERF Update – SWA Secures £1.5m for Wholesalers
Following what is likely to be our penultimate meeting with the SG team overseeing the PERF applications, we had one final push yesterday updating them on our members businesses and ensuring that those now in the appeal process are supported with this grant.
While we should be able to give a final update next week, on how successful we have been in securing PERF grants for the wholesale channel, we can reveal that so far SWA has helped secure over £1.5m for our members.
All but one member has now heard about their application and this week we will focus on assisting members, individually, who are still in the appeal process.
We will also be helping all members finalise letters to their MSPs and MPs lobbying for further support of our industry at both SG and Westminster. Anyone needing help please ask.
CMA Recognise Role of Wholesaler
As updated previously and in our call for evidence, SWA have been engaged with the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) for the past two months in raising supply issues into the wholesale channel and potential preference being given to the multiple channel.
The attached letter from the CMA Director, UK Nations and Scotland states that “we would like to acknowledge the role that many of your members are playing in the COVID-19 crisis. Wholesalers provide a valuable service for independent retailers and subsequently consumers during this crisis, including helping those vulnerable consumers that live in remote areas and rely on local independent retailers. Many of your members are remaining open to provide these services and leaving themselves at risk of infection to do so.”
However it continued to state that unfortunately there was not enough data and evidence to prioritise further investigation by them into the issues we’ve raised on behalf of our members.
SWA thank members for sharing the data you have and while we will continue to liaise with CMA and keep them updated on the wholesale sector in general, unless members can supply more evidence on potential anti-competitive behaviour we will close this chapter of activity.
Tobacco Track & Trace – Beyond Dec’20
The EU’s track and trace is now fully active in UK and subject to penalty should wholesalers be in breach of the regulations.
Today HMRC sent out an update on the arrangement for T&T at the end of the Brexit transition period (Dec’20). In order to allow the system to continue to operate in the UK, HMRC has appointed De La Rue, the UK’s current ID issuer, to provide the additional services necessary for the system to function independently of the EU until December 2021.
The system will operate in largely the same way as it does today, but instead of routing all data to the EU system it will be routed and captured in a new UK data repository. This will ensure that only the minimum changes necessary are made, to reduce disruption and any additional burdens on businesses. We will hold a procurement exercise later in the year to appoint a longer-term service provider from January 2022.
HMRC focus over the coming months is to ensure all stakeholders are ready and fully prepared for the system. On this note, SWA are aware that there are members experiencing problems and to avoid penalty ask that you speak with your hardware/software providers so as to quickly find a solution. Please let us know if this problem is out with their control. It would also be helpful to know how many retailers you have that have not yet provided an ID number.
Economy Secretary urges Chancellor to Extend Furlough
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has written to the Chancellor calling for a continuation of the UK government’s job retention scheme beyond October.
Ms Hyslop said it was "vital that the UK has a long-term approach in place so we can offer certainty to individuals and businesses about what support will be available to them beyond October". In the letter Ms Hyslop pointed out that certain sectors of the Scottish economy, such as tourism and hospitality, will not have fully recovered within the next four months [the exact point SWA are making to the Ms Hyslop, Kate Forbes and Fergus Ewing about wholesale].
She also expresses concern about rural and island economies and further notes that while the cost of the support schemes was significant, it was less than social security payments and the social costs of unemployment.
SG Launch Return to Work Package
A £230 million Return to Work package has been unveiled by Kate Forbes, the funding for which will be reallocated from schemes interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative covers construction, low carbon projects, digitisation and business support and will provide a flow of work for businesses and support jobs.
New projects featured in the package include:
· £51 million for business support, including boosting high growth companies
· £78 million for construction, including £40 million for regeneration projects and £20 million for roads maintenance
· £66 million to kick-start our green recovery, including £7 million to equip buses for physical distancing and the return to work
· £35.5 million for digitisation, including justice and education services
On the call with the SG food and drink team yesterday, SWA asked whether wholesalers would be eligible to access some of this package. Especially in helping pivot businesses to become more ‘digitised’ or ‘greener’. Including evolving their websites, digital interaction with customers and investing in greener fleets or energy consumption. This is something that the food and drink team are going to seek clarity on for us.
FREE School Meals Extended in Scotland
Children eligible for free school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer through a package of £27.6 million of additional funding from the Scottish Government.
The funding will ensure councils are able to continue the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays and other food provision to help low income families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
VAT Payment Deferrals Deadline
As part of the government’s support for businesses during COVID-19, HMRC gave businesses the option of deferring their VAT payments if they were unable to pay on time, without incurring late payment interest or penalties. Payment of VAT falling due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 can be deferred until 31 March 2021.
Members should be aware that the option to defer paying VAT ends on 30 June 2020. This means that VAT returns with a payment due date after 30 June must be paid in full, on time.
If you haven't deferred any VAT payments, you don't need to take any further action. If you have deferred paying your VAT and normally pay by Direct Debit you should now reinstate it.
PHS Annual Report on Alcohol Consumption
Public Health Scotland today published the MESAS Monitoring Report 2020, showing key statistics on alcohol consumption, price and related harms. The report says there has been no further drop-off in consumption since year one of the MUP regulations - while the number of deaths caused by alcohol continues to rise.
In 2019 alcohol consumption in Scotland remained at its lowest level since 1994 but is still five units per week above government recommendations. The volume of pure alcohol sold in Scotland was 9% higher than in England and Wales, while the average price of alcohol sold in Scottish supermarkets and off-licences rose to 62 pence per unit (ppu) in 2019, up from 59ppu in 2018. In England and Wales the average price of off-trade alcohol rose from 56ppu to 57ppu over the same timeframe.
British Beer & Pub Association – Press Release
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk in next 48 hours without a firm reopening date, industry says.
Chief Executives of leading brewers and pub operators have today written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding that he confirms by Friday 19th June exactly when all pubs will be able to reopen.
The companies include international, regional, family and independent brewers, as well and national and regional pub operators who collectively brew 90% of the beer in Britain and own 20,000 of its pubs.
They say the sector has reached crisis point and needs a definitive date by this Friday on when exactly all pubs can reopen, so they can get their pubs ready and ensure breweries are able to brew fresh draught beer for them.
New figures also revealed by the trade association today show that unless pubs can re-open from 4th July as indicated in the Government's roadmap for economic recovery, changes to the Job Retention Scheme will cost pubs a further £120 million.
These costs, the trade association says, could tip many pubs over the edge unless they are given clarity and confidence on when exactly they can reopen. Without a clear and definitive date from the Government, many pub businesses will have no choice but to start cutting costs to survive. This would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses and permanent closures of pubs in local communities across the UK.
Welcome to the start of another week and today’s updates.
SWA Raise Direct Debit Problem with BoE
SWA today raised with the Bank of England the potential backlog in setting up the hundreds of thousands of cancelled Direct Debits that will be required before the hospitality businesses can be supplied. This obviously isn’t just related to wholesalers and we are concerned that banks will be unable to cope with the huge demand placed on them in a very short period of time.
BoE confirmed that this scenario had not been considered and is now being investigated. SWA have asked whether there would be the possibility of cutting red tape and simply reinstating old DD mandates, rather than having to go through the process of setting up completely new agreements. Saving time for both our members and the banks themselves.
We have also raised the issued with the Scottish Government and Scottish Tourism Alliance – who have close contacts within the banking sector and will support our asks/concerns.
Brexit – No Transition; Border Controls; Export Paperwork
Following a meeting with the Withdrawal Joint Committee on 12 June 2020, the UK has formally notified the EU that it will neither accept or seek any extension to the Transition Period.
A new timetable has also been agreed, while talks will take place in each week of the five weeks between 29 June and 27 July. Further rounds will be held in the weeks of 17 and 21 August.
Border Control – Key Dates
Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, the UK will introduce the new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021.
- From January 2021:Traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. There will be checks on controlled goods like alcohol and tobacco. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination on all high risk live animals and a proportion of low-risk live animals.
- From April 2021:All products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products – and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
- From July 2021:Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for SPS commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.
To support businesses with the new processes taking effect next year, the UK Government has developed a new £50 million package to boost the capacity of customs intermediaries – including customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators – providing businesses with further support. This funding will support intermediaries with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to help handle customs declarations. Applications for the new funding will be open from July and HMRC will unveil more details in due course. Rules will also be changed to remove barriers for intermediaries taking on new clients.
Questionnaire for businesses who move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
At the end of the transition period when the Northern Ireland Protocol comes into force there will be changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For businesses to keep up to date with changes, they will need to fill in the Northern Ireland Protocol questionnaire on screen, save it, then email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday the First Minister wrote to the UK Government to call for an extension to the Brexit transition period to ensure business support was the priority post-Covid. She said if this did not happen, businesses may feel they had to risk public health by re-opening when it was not safe to do so or large numbers of jobs would be lost.
Nicola Sturgeon said the SG had supported exploratory work on the introduction of a universal basic income. She said the crisis had made her more supportive of the idea, but the Scottish Parliament could not introduce a comprehensive scheme because important powers were reserved. Fiona Hyslop said Aileen Campbell had written to the UKG with some initial evidence and to request further discussions.
Hopeful Scotland will move to next phase on Thursday
Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday that she remains hopeful that Scotland will be able to move into the next stage of the route map out of lockdown on Thursday. Including re-opening of smaller non-essential shops, as well as the lifting of the bar on meeting people from other households indoors. It could also allow some factories and other non-office workplaces to re-open. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has ordered a comprehensive review of the two-metre social-distancing rule amid calls it should be scrapped.
Trade Credit Insurance
The Business Department (Beis) has asked FWD if members have any feedback following the Trade Credit Insurance announcement:
- Are members are making use of it? Has it been easy to access/does it work practically?
- Are there are examples of members who were unable to access Trade Credit Insurance who now can?
SWA members please pass on any feedback as and when you have it and we’ll pass to FWD. Beis is aware that it will become more of an issue when the hospitality sector reopens.
Forging A New Future in Retail
We are pleased to attach, TWC’s brand new research report focusing on the retail sector, consumer behaviours and opinions on the future of the UK convenience channel.
From home delivery, to teaming up with others in the high street, the convenience channel looks buoyant but us wholesalers always new that! Now is the time to capitalise on this consumer mood swing towards the independent channel and ensure we drive this change for good.
From local sourcing to investing in new technology, SWA are working away in the background, creating new opportunities for our members through the ‘national food tourism strategy’ through to how we can drive Enterprise investment into your businesses…now and in the future.
For further information on the TWC Market Research please contact Tom Fender at email@example.com
Hospitality Ask Government For Ongoing Support of The Industry
The hospitality sector was responsible for almost a quarter of the GDP losses felt by UK business in April. Taken with data from March, with hospitality being first into the downturn, the sector has been responsible for some 32.7% of lost GDP for the country since the crisis began (UKHospitality & CGA).
Cutting VAT, an overhaul of the business rates system and the creation of an October bank holiday are some of the ways the government can support the UK’s hospitality and tourism businesses, according the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Hospitality and Tourism’s report. The report also showed just 11% of hospitality businesses have been able to operate normally during the lock-down and international tourist arrivals are likely to be down 30% for the year.
Other measures that should be adopted according to the report were a common framework to ensure venues can operate safely; a phased approach to reopening businesses, due to the variety of business models; financial support extension to keep jobs safe; reconsider the two-metre social distancing rules; introduce air bridges and cut air passenger duty to boost inbound tourism.
Please find attached todays updates and see our latest Scottish Wholesale Market Survey results.
Scotland’s Re-opens Hospitality on 15th July
Fergus Ewing, Cab. Sec for Rural Economy & Tourism, set out his Tourism Strategy in Parliament today. In it he stated that:
- SG understands the exceptional & very challenging circumstances facing our tourism and hospitality sector.
- It is heavily dependent on seasonality, meaning that the already limited opportunities are narrowing by the day.
- Many businesses are facing key decisions about their futures, with all the implications for jobs and investment. It is an unenviable position by any measure.
- Statutory reviews of the current restrictions are required on 18 June and 9 July. As things stand just now, our hope is that we will be able to give the go-ahead for a reopening of the sector at the review on 9 July.
- On the clear understanding with the industry that nothing can be absolutely guaranteed—we would encourage tourism and hospitality businesses to prepare, within appropriate safety guidelines, for reopening on 15 July (Phase 3 of SG routemap).
- SG will soon publish guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector that will help businesses make the necessary changes.
- A new Scottish tourism recovery task force will be set up to take forward strategic oversight of, and provision of advice on, recovery plans in response to the impact of Covid-19 on Scottish tourism and hospitality.
While the details will be published over the coming week(s), Phase 3 to which these dates coincide, include visitor attractions, all accommodation providers, restaurants and pubs but NOT large or mass gatherings…which are in stage 4.
There was also no mention of changes towards the 2metre social distancing which will still remain in place, as it currently stands. The full transcript of his speech can be found HERE.
SWA Writes to Scottish MSPs
Ahead of today’s Tourism Strategy Statement by Fergus Ewing, SWA wrote personally to relevant MSPs calling for their support of the wholesale sector, as a pivotal pillar in the recovery of the hospitality and tourism industry. We specifically asked them to support a rates relief extension, financial grants and further financial support to our industry.
Our latest survey starkly highlights the urgent need for SG/UKG support, with only 30% of foodservice respondents more than 50% confident of surviving until the year end! That’s despite a slightly improving picture of growing sales up from 81% loss of business in April to 69% in May (71% in the Highlands & Islands).
We have already had MSP responses both in support of our asks as well as requesting further information on our sector.
SWA Requests Support of Scottish MPs
Further to yesterday’s update and in support of our SG letter to MSPs, asking for rates relief extension to wholesale, we have been writing to Scottish MPs in Westminster in a similar vein.
We have drafted a letter for you to complete and send to your constituency MP. Members whom I have not yet contacted to discuss this letter and give your MP contact details please get in touch.
Wholesalers Should Get Local Council Underspend Monies!
SWA were pleased to hear, in the Q&A session after Fergus Ewing’s Tourism statement, Colin Smyth (South Scotland) Labour, asked whether unspent funds from Local Council rates-based & property grants schemes be used for creating a new a flexible local discretionary grant scheme?
Mr Ewing answered, stating that “…it is right that money that is intended to provide mitigation of financial hardship for businesses in tourism should be used for that. Whether it is bed and breakfasts, hotels, visitor attractions, coach companies, which provide a vital service, or wholesalers, who provide a vital service to the on sector, all of them should have access to some kind of financial bridge in the current period. Any spare money that is available should be used primarily for those purposes.”
SWA will be following up with Mr Ewing on his statement to ensure that any unspent monies are indeed redistributed to wholesalers. But more importantly will be asking why any rates based funding unused is not extended to wholesale in the first instance…as per our asks above!
Furlough Permitted for Those on Maternity
UK Government today confirmed that parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed.
This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.
UK Damage Worst of Developed World
Britain’s economy is likely to suffer the worst damage from the Covid-19 crisis of any country in the developed world, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A slump in the UK’s national income of 11.5% during 2020 will outstrip the falls in France, Italy, Spain and Germany, the Paris-based thinktank said. Highlighting the task awaiting the UK government as it seeks to ease the lockdown, the OECD ruled out a V-shaped recovery for the global economy, saying the path back to previous levels of activity would be hampered by long-lasting effects of the pandemic.
Just a brief update today, with some information collated over the past two days.
First Minister Updates (8th & 9th June)
Nicola Sturgeon is "optimistic" that Scotland's coronavirus restrictions could be eased further on 18 June - the next review point. The second phase could allow people to meet up with another household indoors, as long as physical distancing is maintained. It will also involve re-opening more shops and businesses, as well as the resumption of professional sport.
The first minister said any changes might not include every element of the second phase, but that the SG would also look to "accelerate things from later phases" if possible. She said ministers "want to get the economy back to as much normality as possible", but that "we have to do it safely so we don't set everybody back again by allowing the virus to run out of control".
On the subject of relaxing 2m social distancing she said today that she would make decisions on what was best for Scotland and not copy what was happening in England if it was inappropriate [UKG today announced is was currently sticking with SAGE advice at 2m but kept under review]. She understood tourism businesses were struggling and that Fergus Ewing’s statement tomorrow would address how they could adapt & partially re-open during the summer.
Ahead of Mr Ewing’s Tourism statement tomorrow, SWA wrote to him asking that he recognise that the whole of the supply chain needs ongoing UK Government support. Noting the quickest and easiest way being to give 100% rates relief to our sector and which would help SG, through UK equivalence, in finding the monies to support this primary and ongoing ask by SWA. It would also support the same call by FWD of Westminster.
Meanwhile the monthly report from the Scotland’s Chief Economist [ to whom SWA have sent our latest Scottish Wholesale Market Survey] forecasts a more gradual recovery that might not see Scotland’s economy return to pre-crisis levels “for a number of years”. It also showed in the first half of May almost one fifth of businesses were temporarily closed and turnover was down in almost every sector of the economy. The report included new modelling which considers the different phases for easing lockdown.
Job Retention Scheme – Deadline Ends Tomorrow for New Employees
The scheme will close to any new entrants from 1st July, meaning that anyone furloughed after 30th June must have been furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks prior to 1st July.
Therefore, if you intend to furlough an employee who hasn’t been furloughed previously, you will need to agree that with them and start their period of furlough tomorrow - 10th June. This is the last day on which someone who has never been furloughed before can start a period of furlough and qualify for the scheme – ensuring the minimum three-week period is complete by 30th June.
SWA FREE HR helpline 07768 612493 for further advice & support.
SG Advisory Group
Benny Higgins, former Chief Executive of Tesco Bank, has spoken to BBC about the SG economic recovery panel. He says the Group's report, into which SWA contributed member feedback from our latest survey, includes recommendations that a new agency be set up, to take on board numerous private company stakes that government is likely to be taking on soon, as part of the rescue phase for all sizes of firms in financial distress.
Other priorities include youth unemployment, rural vulnerability to the tourism stoppage, skills and the school curriculum, and making more of Scotland's universities. This report will outline conclusions to the Scottish cabinet this week, and full publication by the end of the month.
- Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced that plans to fully open primary schools before the summer holidays would be dropped, after finding that about three quarters of those who could have returned to school have not.
- Non-essential retail outlets can open from Monday 15 June if they comply with COVID secure guidelines (developed in consultation with national and independent retailers, representative groups, PHE and the HSE) (ENGLAND ONLY)
- COVID-19 risk assessments must be undertaken – if responsible steps have not been taken then the Government, local auth and the HSE can carry out enforcement actions.
- Enforcement action is currently under review in Scotland and will be carried out by Local Authorities. Scottish retail guidance and risk assessment can be found HERE.
- Further safer working guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars – as well as hairdressers, barbers and nail bars – will be published as soon as possible (ENGLAND).
- SWA have asked to sit on the expected Hospitality Sub-group that will look at the guidance for Scottish restaurants, pubs and bars. This follows from the Retail Sub-group we’ve sat on since its’ inception.
- 2 Metre Rule: In response to multiple questions on 2m relaxation in line with WHO guidance, Alok Sharma said this would be kept under review and would only happen when it was safe to do so. He noted other countries had looked at their infection rates before reducing the distancing requirement. Sarah Albon claimed the number of current infections would be taken into account when reviewing the distance.
Please find today’s updates below.
While Westminster today announced that Facial coverings will become mandatory, in England, for those using public transport – buses, trains, aeroplanes and ferries - from the 15th of June (to help to reduce transmission where the 2 metre rule is not possible) the First Minister today only hinted at this for Scotland.
SG Food Resilience Industry Roundtable
The weekly SG industry roundtable today started to focus on Brexit and a Food & Drink ‘Recovery Strategy’. Discussions included:
- The SG paper released yesterday and the impact a No Deal could have on the Scottish economy and food & drink sector
- Industrial policy post C-19 focusing on carbon neutrality and potential Globalization having reached the end of its’ cycle.
- Scottish recovery paper for food & drink industry, compiled by Industry partners (including SWA) and Scotland Food & Drink; a draft of which will be presented to the roundtable next week.
- Recovery based on ‘local and localisation’; getting people to support Scotland and UK food & drink; positioning food & drink as part of the recovery process but inclusive of whole supply chain… wholesale fundamental as the route to market.
- What intervention is required by Government(s); how we learn from the rest of the world so Scotland stays ahead.
- SRC concerned that a second lockdown near Christmas would be cataclysmic to the retail sector (food & non-food).
- Brexit impact on imports & exports – Freight Transport Assoc. claim between 150 & 200k businesses will have to complete customs paperwork for first time. Leading to problems/errors/costs and delays.
- 70% of food & drink consignments to Northern Ireland go via Cairnryan. SG would like to know what food & drink products you may import/export via Cairnryan and volumes. Please pass this information back to SWA.
PERF Applications & Further Wholesale Support
Following Monday’s member call with Fergus Ewing and SG officials, dealing with PERF applications, SWA had a further private call with SG today to discuss this further.
Discussions centred around those who have not yet heard or have been unsuccessful (of which there are still only a handful) in their application. It was confirmed that the SE agencies are being pushed hard to process the remaining SWA member’s applications and a process has been set up to hear any appeals. SWA has already shared details of this with the relevant members.
Fergus Ewing’s officials, including the Deputy Director of the Directorate for Intl Trade & Investment , today confirmed that while there are still challenges in ensuring ALL our members (including national members and those ineligible for PERF) benefit from SG support they are keen to ensure our sector is given this where an acceptable solution can be found. On the back of this and following our member update yesterday, SWA have been asked to support SG in their asks of UKG for further financial assistance and we will be discussing this further with the Scottish Finance Minister and Economy Secretary next week.
£10 Billion Trade Credit Insurance Scheme Agreed
The UK Government has finally given detail on their underwriting of trade credit insurance and will provide guarantees of up to £10 billion to Trade Credit Insurance schemes for business-to-business transactions
- Trade credit insurance coverage to be maintained across the market in light of COVID-19, with up to £10 billion government backing
- measures will support thousands of businesses by protecting against customer defaults or payment delays
- scheme is available on a temporary basis for nine months, backdated to 1 April 2020, and available insurers operating in the UK market
The Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme, which has been agreed following extensive discussions with the insurance sector, will see the vast majority of Trade Credit Insurance coverage maintained across the UK. Our understanding is that businesses will buy credit insurance from existing insurers, in the normal way, while the insurer will in turn buy/get the Trade Credit Reinsurance cover from UKG.
- the scheme will be delivered through a reinsurance agreement that is open to all insurers currently operating in the UK market, covering both domestic and overseas trade with payment terms of up to 2 years
- the scheme rules will also require participating insurers to comply with certain undertakings regarding the conduct of their business during the period of the scheme. This includes conditions that insurers will forgo profits and will not pay dividends or bonuses for senior staff for their guaranteed Trade Credit Insurance business
- export credit insurance is also available from UK Export Finance to cover UK exports to 180 countries.
£1.6m to Help Tackle Food Insecurity
As we previously intimated, FareShare, the national network of charitable food distributors, has today secured an additional £1.6 million of funding from SG. This will help FareShare purchase more food for local authorities, community-run initiatives and frontline charities across Scotland.
SWA have already contacted Fareshare to ask that they use Wholesalers, instead of supermarkets, in the procurement of this food. They already use SWA members for some of this procurement and are looking to use more members to extend this reach. Focus will be on purchasing ‘retail’ packs however, much to our disappointment in trying to help move ‘catering’ sized packs sitting in your depots.
While Fareshare have a full list of our members and key contacts within, if you would like to make contact directly with Fareshare yourselves please let me know and I can put you in touch.
STA ask for 2m Rule to Be Relaxed
The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) has written to Fergus Ewing, today asking for clarity about dates for re-opening of the sector and that SG considers relaxing the 2 metre social distancing rule to a 1m parameter to avoid the collapse of many parts of the tourism sector and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
STA say that the majority of tourism businesses believe it won’t be economically viable for their businesses to trade if the 2 metres rule is in place and as a result would remain closed.
They cite the World Health Organisation (WHO) which advises that people should stay 1 metre apart. This rule is followed in Spain, Italy, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. In Germany, Poland and the Netherlands the distance is 1.5 metres, with only the UK, Switzerland and US staying two metres apart. The UKG will be given clear advice and recommendations by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in the next two weeks.
For information, the 2 meter social distancing is written into Law in Scotland, unlike in England. SWA will not be lobbying either for or against changes to social distancing rules as this is for health professionals to advise on and is out with our area of capability.
Food Resilience Industry Forum (SWA join this call)
- The test and trace app (England only) will be tailored to take into account the specific measures put in place in workplaces eg where an interaction between two people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact to require someone to self-isolate, provided that they have had no other form of contact with the person who has tested positive
- The Government’s 12-week end date for people in the “shielded vulnerable” group in June 30, not June 15 which some businesses are using. Businesses should work on the basis that shielded colleagues will continue to be off in July but Government will take steps to ensure businesses are protected. The UK Government’s clinical advice is shared with the devolved administrations but they may move at different speeds depending on C19 in the four nations
- The Road Haulage Association is warning of backlog of MOTs when the HGV testing exemption runs out in October, which could affect Christmas plans and is also a safety and potential insurance issue
- The Department for Transport and the Foreign Office are looking at “air bridges” to allow foreign travel but there is “some way” to go in understanding it
Call with Small Business Minister
FWD joined a call with Paul Scully, Small Business Minister, to discuss C19 supply chain impacts on SMEs. FWD used the call to highlight the need for business rate relief extension to the wholesale sector. The call was supported by ACS who referenced the interdependence of the supply chain and the need to maintain a mix of wholesale suppliers into convenience. The warehousing sector also called for rate relief. In his reply the Minister said support schemes had been put together “at speed” and “some businesses fall between the cracks”.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The final date which businesses can furlough an employee for the first time will be June 10, in order for the current three week furlough period to be completed by 30 June. Employers will have until July 31 to make any claims in respect of the period to June 30.
As the Scottish Parliament has entered partial recess, and Westminster is about to enter their full Summer recess, Parliamentary information will reduce. Therefore SWA updates will now only be sent out when there is enough relevant content to send to you.
This however does not mean that SWA are doing any less work behind the scenes, as we continue to fight your cause and protect the issues that matter most to you.
SWA joins Under Secretary of State
The SWA yesterday joined other industry leaders in talking with Iain Stewart MP, Under Secretary of State for Scotland, and the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC). EHRC were keen to share their expert guidance and knowledge and wanted to understand the people, gender and equality in our businesses and how they are considered within the recovery of our economy and our business.
SWA welcomed the establishment of closer dialogue with Lesley Sawers (EHRC Scotland Commissioner) and CEO Rebecca Hilsenrath. If nothing else to ensure that SWA help our members stay on the right side of equality and human rights laws. However we took the opportunity of raising with Iain and EHRC, the fact that a rebuild only comes with Government support and as a sector left behind in this, our people could find themselves left behind too. With no human rights policy able to help avoid this!
Iain Stewart welcomed direct approaches to him and we will be taking up this opportunity to share our deeper concerns for our industry and ongoing asks for support.
In the meantime, please find attached an advance briefing which lays out the Commission’s remit and some of their recent work. This includes guidance they have produced to support employers, in addition to submissions they have made to the UK and Scottish Governments and Parliament bodies examining the impact of coronavirus and considering the economic response.
Trade Credit: Fergus Ewing writes to Rishi Sunak on Behalf of SWA
On Friday, Fergus Ewing wrote a letter to The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlining concerns SWA and our members have raised with him, over the past few months, in relation to the removal of trade credit by suppliers and the urgent need for UKG to underwrite Trade Credit Insurance, as promised in April.
While we understand, from DEFRA communications with FWD, that the EU regulations that were holding up the process have now been overcome, SG have no further knowledge on this. Nor do they on the timelines for implementing the underwriting process and getting insurance providers set up to reinstate credit terms between supplier and wholesaler.
No response has yet been forthcoming.
A copy of the letter is attached. For member confidentiality we have removed the appendix referred.
Scottish Government publishes guidance on home working
At yesterday’s Covid-19 briefing Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop stressed the ongoing importance of homeworking to the country’s public health response. The guidance which covers health and safety and workforce planning and support notes that “Organisations should make every reasonable effort to make working from home the default position. Where a worker can perform their work from home, they should continue to do so.” Homeworking guidance
Parliamentary Questions on Behalf of SWA
As intimated in an earlier update, Chris Elmore (Labour) MP, Under Secretary of State for Scotland, had asked a question of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on behalf of SWA and on which we awaited an answer. His question and DEFRA response are now included below.
Also listed below, are three further questions he’s asked on our behalf, of The Chancellor and Sec. State for Environment, and which we await a response.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the financial effect of the covid-19 outbreak on food and drink wholesalers in Scotland. (71118)
Tabled on: 08 July 2020
This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:
- To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the (a) resilience of food and drink wholesalers during the covid-19 outbreak and (b) the importance of such wholesalers to tourism and other sectors. (71119)
Tabled on: 08 July 2020
The wholesale sector is hugely important within the food and drink supply chain and to the economy of the country through servicing tourism and other financially important sectors. To ensure its ongoing viability in difficult circumstances, the UK Government has provided a range of support. This includes the announcement of a host of measures to help businesses in this period, with over £300 billion worth of Government backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses across the UK.
Food and drink wholesalers are eligible for a number of schemes, including: the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help keep millions of people in employment and the Discretionary Grant Fund for small and micro businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes. The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is also available to small businesses from 4 May. This will apply to wholesalers who will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 with a 100% Government-backed guarantee for lenders.
The Secretary of State speaks to his counterparts in the Scottish Government, including through the Defra multilateral Inter Ministerial Group, on a regular basis when they discuss a range of issues. Discussions also take place regularly at official level and these cover sharing of sectoral information and updates on Government activities.
Food supply is a devolved matter. It is therefore for the Scottish Government to decide what discussions they have with their sectors and what support to provide beyond that delivered at UK level in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chris Elmore - further Parliamentary Questions
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the Trade Credit Reinsurance Scheme will be available to assist Scottish food and drink wholesale businesses who are struggling to afford credit insurance premiums or are having credit insurance withdrawn by insurers as a result of Coronavirus.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what actions the government has taken to support food and drink wholesalers and redistribution organisations to minimise the waste of good food through the legal distribution of food after their displayed "Best Before" date.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the Government will continue to monitor the impacts of their business support packages and when they will announce a much needed business rates relief support scheme to bring the food and drink wholesale sector into line with their customers in hospitality, tourism and retail.
SNP Challenge UK Government to Extend Furlough Scheme
The SNP's new Westminster Deputy leader Kirsten Oswald MP has challenged the Prime Minister to extend the furlough scheme into 2021 - echoing industry warnings of a "jobs bloodbath" when the support scheme is cut back on August 1st. The call comes as Make UK - the manufacturers' organisation - said an extension of the Job Retention Scheme was "vital" to prevent a "jobs bloodbath" and to protect key sectors.
Ms Oswald said "It is vital that if the UK government is serious about protecting jobs and businesses, and ensuring a strong economic recovery, then it must step back and extend the furlough schemes into 2021. Failing to do so could lead to redundancies on a level not seen since the 1980s and force many businesses to pull down their shutters for good.
We can see the impact on jobs and livelihoods coming over the horizon because of the Treasury imposed furlough cliff-edge.”
Retail Sales Down 19%
The Scottish Retail Consortium have reported that retail sales fell by 19% last month compared to the same period last year. June was the fourth month of double-digit decline. Some areas - such as food (which was up 4%) [excludes convenience], laptops and other home electronics and DIY - fared better.
The period included one week of the opening up of non-essential retail and was an improvement on May’s decline figure of 33%.
Food labelling deviations
The Food Standards Agency has advised TSOs/EHOs that the period for permitting the flexibilities for food labelling deviations (for products which were incorrectly labelled due to C19 issues) will end on July 25 2020. FWD has raised this with our Primary Authority Surrey, who say that where flexibilities have already been agreed or are agreed before July 25 , the relevant products will be permitted to be sold through after July 25.
The enforcement community have been told that they are not to agree any new incorrectly labelled product after July 25. However, in practice there is still the option for Primary Authorities to request deviations from FSA after that date. If members have any new products which come up and need relabelling please let us know and we will seek agreement from Surrey.
The Cabinet Office has worked with partner companies to produce face coverings within the UK which do not compete with UK NHS clinical supply chains for PPE or medical masks. These face coverings align instead with both AFNOR and CEN specifications. The BSI has also aligned with both specifications and this allows these products to be BSI kitemarked.
The short term spot guide price direct from manufacturer is 30p ex-works per face covering. If members intend to order 10k units or more please let us know and the Cabinet Office can put you in touch with the manufacturer. For volumes up to 10k it is best to go via a distributor, listed below.
Strategic Account Manager
Ace Office Environments
Government information and key links for businesses of all sizes looking for Covid-19 support.
Information and key links for helping support members during Covid-19.
The latest Covid-19 health advice and information on applying for testings and what symptoms to watch out for.
Employment & Volunteering
The latest links and information around employment issues and volunteering opportunities.