THE Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) has commented on the Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, welcoming both the freeze on fuel duty which it says will ease difficult operating conditions for its members and the introduction of the National Loan Guarantee Scheme which will reduce the rate of borrowing by 1% for small businesses.

George Benson, president of the Association, said: "This certainly appears to be a pro-business Autumn Statement with a focus on growth, and we welcome the proposals for credit easing that will help many small businesses - our wholesale members' customers - expand and grow their businesses.

"The cut to the increase in fuel duty will be welcomed by businesses and motorists alike at a time when fuel costs are a real burden."

But he urged wholesalers to "look for the positives and seek out new opportunities", suggesting that straitened times mean fewer visits to the big supermarkets and more shopping trips to the local store.

Benson said: "Clearly there are more challenging times ahead for our industry but as consumers prepare to further rein in their spending, there are opportunities for convenience stores - our members' customers - to do up their game when it comes to customer service and be open at the times when their customers need them.

"The Chancellor's announcement that businesses with a rateable value of between £6,000 and £12,000 will see their rates holiday stretched from October 2012 to April 2013 is also good news.

"I think the catering sector will have a tougher time going forward and while that will impact on foodservice wholesalers, I believe that business will come back. Scotland's wholesalers are resilient and will weather the storm."