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Coronavirus – Scotland Food & Drink update

Wednesday, 01 April 2020 Scotland Food and Drink news

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Scotland Food & Drink updates on the work the organisation is doing around the Coronavirus outbreak. To get the daily update direct to your inbox, sign up here.

Update - Wednesday 1st April 2020

The discussion over financial support for businesses picked up again today and we’re discussing it amongst the industry organisations and will be with government this week too. Obviously, the impact for businesses that were focussed on exports and UK foodservice sales has been stark since day one. For those businesses that also have UK retail sales, the fall back in sales in recent days, from the peaks over the last fortnight, is exacerbating the impact for them of the closure of other markets. We’ll update as discussions on further support progress.

We are also keeping a close watching brief on workforce absentee levels with very variable level of absence reported across the country and between individual businesses. Please keep information flowing to us on changes on this and general impacts of the outbreak on your operations. We are involved in daily calls with our fellow industry bodies and with government and it’s your information shaping the responses being developed. As always, you should email info@foodanddrink.scot with a briefing on your current situation.

A reminder too that yesterday saw the launch of the new workforce recruitment platform, which could be a very useful mechanism for businesses seeking to fill emerging gaps in their own workforce. The link to that is below.

Many of you continue discussions in your own businesses on social distancing and building further protection for workers that have to be on site to keep food and drink supply moving.  There may be further guidance issued from Food Standards Scotland (FSS) later. In the meantime, the business section in the Q&A from FSS remains the go-to place for official guidance. We also have the SF&D best practice guide available too. Links to both are below.

Please get in touch if there is any other information you are looking for just now. We’ll do our best to point you in the right direction, or raise issues where information is unclear or missing.

A link to the full daily update can be found here. A summary is below. 

Redundancy support service

The Scottish Government has enhanced its support service for those made redundant as a result of COVID-19.  Advice is available at redundancyscotland.co.uk or by calling 0800 917 8000.

Personal Skills Learning Resource

The Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) has collated some of its top resources for the personal skills needed to cope with immediate changes to working life. These can be accessed here

 Business Gateway webinars

Business Gateway is releasing webinars across Scotland to help businesses through COVID-19.  Topics range across such as staffing issues, managing business debts, government funding and rates relief. To find out more and to register, please click here.  

Kantar - COVID-19: Ensuring Resilience in Retail

If you missed yesterday’s webinar with the Kantar UK team answering questions about the impact and implications the Coronavirus pandemic is having on retailers, manufacturers and people’s shopping behaviour you can now listen to a recording. Click here to access.

Update - Tuesday 31st March 2020

Today, we’ve been raising a few issues that further clarification is required on.  Some of the exact rules around the furlough of workers are still be confirmed. In particular, the ability of furloughed workers to support workforce gaps in others’ sectors is being explored.   

On travel restrictions, there are some reports of police stopping vehicles with staff that are car sharing in order to get the work. Further official public health advice is being sought to help clarify for the police – and for our businesses – what the enforcement advice should be.

In other developments today, Scotland Food & Drink has joined six of its industry partner organisations in signing a letter co-ordinated by FDF Scotland to all of Scotland’s MPs and MSPs. It highlights the work being undertaken by businesses and our workforce to keep the nation’s food and drink supply chain moving. A link to the letter is below.

We’re conscious that there is a lot of communication on Covid-19 from many different angles. To try and create one simple gateway into the information being produced by our industry and public sector partners, we have put it all into one table. Again, there is a link to it below.

Also, expect to see very shortly, a new workforce platform to connect those looking for work with those needing additional workforce. This will add - and provide a central connection to - the many other excellent initiatives happening on this subject.

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below. 

Job Hub

Today, sees the soft launch of Job Hub developed by Skills Development Scotland on behalf of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership.

Job Hub is a free service which enables employers across Scotland to quickly and efficiently advertise vacancies to a broad audience through Scotland’s dedicated careers resource My World of Work. 

If you have any suggestions for development of the site please feedback via info@foodanddrink.scot

Home delivery  

Many producers and independent retailers are turning to home delivery as an option to reach local customers in self-isolation or unable to travel to their local shop.

The Association of Convenience Stores has issued new guidance on how to start a home delivery service. This can be found here.

Business Gateway webinars

Business Gateway is releasing webinars across Scotland to help businesses through COVID-19.  Topics range across such as staffing issues, managing business debts, government funding and rates relief. To find out more and to register, please click here.   

Recognising the valuable role of the Scottish food production supply chain - a letter to MPs & MSPs

Today FDF Scotland co-ordinated a letter signed by industry partners to MPs and MSPs across Scotland highlighting the valuable role that the food production supply chain is doing by providing high quality food to front line workers and the Scottish population, during this unprecedented time. Read the full letter.

Update - Monday 30th March 2020

At the start of week two of ‘lockdown’ there continues to be a range of priority issues for the Scotland Food & Drink team, working with partners, government and individual businesses. 

Over the weekend a number of you have shared more information on the significant changes you’re implementing to embrace the social distancing requirements. 

Workforce absence is starting to rise based on reports we are receiving; it probably sits at around 15% on average across the sector. Please keep sharing your own situation, it helps inform the daily discussions between the industry organisations and government. Please drop us a note via info@foodanddrink.scot.

The template travel letter we issued to assist workers who may be questioned on their movements has now been shared with Police Scotland.  Please report any issues your essential workers face in travelling to work.

We’d remind businesses that there is no further requirement for PPE for your staff, beyond what would normally be required. It will be important we don’t add to the national demand for those products, the priority for which needs to be frontline NHS staff.

There is also a great deal of work going on to address product supply gaps and to explore how products previously destined for export and the out of home markets could be redirected to meet retail, convenience and home delivery demand. 

In addition, discussions continue with government on business support measures.

As always, the latest developments will be in this daily update as well as communicated via our social media channels.

To view the full daily update, please click here. A summary can be found below.

Scotland Food & Drink Partnership updates

We’ve pulled together a table of the comprehensive updates, activity and support available across the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership. To access this great resource, please click here.

Enterprise Agencies

Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise have today (30 Mar) published an open letter, outlining their joint commitment and actions to support Scottish business as they respond to the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These actions seek to complement the unprecedented financial and economic measures outlined by the Scottish and UK Governments over the past week or so.

Business resilience

The Scotland Food & Drink team is working hard to create a new guide to business continuity and resilience, and we hope to be able to bring you this within the next few days.

Tomorrow, Tue 31 March, two of our partners are hosting seminars to share their respective industry knowledge on a wide range of key resilience related issues.

Kantar - COVID-19: Ensuring Resilience in Retail

  • Join the Kantar UK team to hear about the impact and implications the Coronavirus pandemic is having on retailers, manufacturers and people’s shopping behaviour. To find out more, join Kantar on Tuesday 31 March at 2pm GMT for a webinar where a team of Kantar retail experts will share findings from daily, weekly and monthly panel data, how to win the mircro-battles and their opinions on what is next for retail. Please find the registration link here

Shepherd and Wedderburn - COVID-19 Food and Drink Sector Webinar update

  • In this food and drink focused webinar, Shepherd and Wedderburn’s legal experts take a sectoral look at some of the core COVID-19 related issues, examining staffing, frustration of contract, competition law, and the licensing and regulatory impact of the recent Coronavirus Act. Please find the registration link here

Update - Friday 27th March 2020

A number of key priorities have been worked on by the Scotland Food & Drink team today, working jointly with our industry partners and the Scottish Government team, all of whom have put in an extraordinary shift this week.

Many of our member companies have been changing operations, including some closing them down over the last 24 hours. In order to keep Ministers briefed on the national picture, please share with us any major changes to your operations. Likewise, we are monitoring staff absence levels across the country. Across our food production base, we’re hearing reports of absence running between 8-15%, mostly as a combination of illness or self-isolation. Again, to ensure we maintain critical food supplies, monitoring the national picture is important. If you can share information confidentially with us on both staff absence and any operational closures, please do so. As always, email us at info@foodanddrink.scot

Additionally, we’ve been hearing about growing demands for PPE in the workplace. As a reminder, the official advice is that additional PPE is NOT a requirement for food businesses at this time. If you didn’t require it before, you don’t now. However, we are exploring potential sources of further PPE for those that absolutely do need it.

We’re also aware of the very obvious business benefit in having future access to the Covid-19 test. It is likely to be available soon, but the time frame is unclear and there will be a priority list of recipients so we would ask everyone to manage their expectations on that. The point about access has been made to Government though.

Like last weekend, if something significant changes on Saturday or Sunday, we will contact you. Failing that, the next daily update will be on Monday.  However, we will obviously be monitoring the incoming messages over the weekend.

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

Employee social distancing briefing

Some food and drink businesses have found it helpful to issue a briefing to employees, detailing the measures being taken to maintain social distancing and provide regular updates on company guidance. Click here for an example sent to us from a member.

New support for the self-employed

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor, has announced (Thu 26 Mar) a £3bn-a-month package of support for up to 3.8m self-employed workers hit by the fallout of Coronavirus. The scheme will pay a cash grant worth 80% of average monthly trading profit over the past three years capped at £2,500 a month, benefiting 95% of people who receive the majority of their income from self-employment.

The Treasury said the scheme would be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Mr Sunak stated that the plan might not be up and running until early June. HMRC will identify eligible taxpayers and contact them directly with guidance on how to apply. In the interim, self-employed individuals may be eligible for universal credit. Answers to FAQs regarding this can be found here.

 The SF&D team will update you as soon as we have more information.

The UK Government has published further details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

It is unclear whether HMRC intends to rely on this guidance only, or whether there will be actual legislation. There is still no detail on the mechanics of the payment. For a summary of the details which have been given click here.

Yourfoodjob.com offers food and drink business free adverts for hourly paid vacancies

Yourfoodjob.com is providing a free of charge platform for companies with labour force issues to find the staff they so urgently need.

This offer is completely free of charge and there’s no requirement to sign a contract, provide payment details or provide any kind of future commitment.

Email admin@yourfoodjob.com or call 01625 502947 to get set up.

Update - Thursday 26th March 2020

One of today’s priorities has been around clarifying guidance for within food and drink businesses on social distancing.

Helpfully, Food Standards Scotland has this morning issued guidance which mirrors that issued by Public Health England, so it is consistent across the UK. It addresses the two-metre, social distancing rule which has been the subject of many questions we’ve received. See below for the link.

We’ve also moved to support our businesses who have workers for whom it's absolutely essential to travel to work. We’ve had reports of police questioning some workers about their movements so the industry trade bodies have produced a template letter for companies to use and for workers to have with them when travelling. There is also one developed to help with childcare requests.

Many other areas of work happening today, see below for the headlines. As this update is being published, the Chancellor is due to announce the measures for support for the self-employed. We will provide an overview of this in tomorrow’s update and across our social channels.

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

Social distancing within food businesses

Food Standards Scotland has published a Q&A for consumers and businesses. You can find official guidance to many questions regarding social distancing and other safety measures.

On the two metre rules it says: “Food businesses need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals wherever possible.” See the link above for the full guidance. 

Best practice and tips from industry on how to maintain social distancing measures in the workplace

This is not official guidance. This might not be relevant to all businesses but we hope that by building a community of practice it provides some support to businesses during this trying time.

We will continue to develop and expand these tips as we learn more. An update from today, 26 March can be found here.

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

Letters for businesses to issue to key workers for movement and childcare

Food and Drink Federation Scotland, along with partners, have developed a downloadable pro-forma letter for businesses to issue to employees for whom it is absolutely essential to travel to work. Click the links below to download.

Key workers - movement between workplace letter
Key workers - childcare letter

Update - Wednesday 25th March 2020

We’ve been looking for further guidance for businesses regarding ongoing operations and social distancing. There is formal advice due out imminently from Food Standards Scotland for food and drink businesses. In the meantime, given the many queries we have had on this in the last 24 hours, the Scotland Food & Drink team has worked on some suggestions of steps you can take within your business to adhere to the latest public health advice. It’s not official guidance, it won’t be relevant for all, but it could help guide you and it is drawn from looking at best practice being implemented across the SF&D membership. See below for that information.

It’s been a busy day working on other issues too. We’ve had reports of the police questioning some staff heading to their workplace and challenging their movements outside of the home. We’re working on a pro-forma letter for businesses to issue to employees for whom it is absolutely essential to travel to work. FDF Scotland is co-ordinating that work amongst the industry partners. 

An additional funding package was announced at lunchtime by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing for the seafood industry. More detail below. The information on general financial support for businesses continues to develop and we’ve got a handy table of all the support measures with appropriate links. Again, see the update below on that.

You can contact us at any time via info@foodanddrink.scot. The staff will aim to get back to you as soon as possible.

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

Best practice and tips from industry on how to maintain social distancing measures in the workplace

The First Minister has advised essential businesses to maintain social distancing measures in the workplace. To support food and drink manufactures in protecting their workforce from Covid-19, Scotland Food & Drink has pulled together best practice tips being used by members of the food and drink business community.

This is not official guidance. This might not be relevant to all businesses but we hope that by building a community of practice it provides some support to businesses during this trying time.

We will continue to develop and expand these tips as we learn more. Please read the daily bulletin to stay up to date. The tips can be found here.

We’d like to thank all the businesses and partners who contributed and shared their learnings.

If you have created your own guidelines or have come across any helpful resources please share by sending to info@foodanddrink.scot 

To get the daily update direct to your inbox, sign up here.

Coronavirus support for seafood fishing industry

Extra payments to help sector through outbreak.

  • The seafood sector is to receive an initial package of more than £5 million in financial support to assist businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Funding will be offered to over 650 seafood fishing companies, many of whom have lost their livelihoods with the collapse of export and hospitality markets for Scottish delicacies like langoustine, prawns and crab.
  • An initial payment of 50% of two months’ average earnings will be made to owners of all full time Scottish registered fishing vessels of 12 metres length and under – the vast majority of which are in the creel and dive sectors, many of whom operate in remote and island communities.
  • Support is also being developed for the onshore processing industry – one of the largest employers in Scotland’s coastal communities – and others in the shellfish growing sector which is being affected by the loss of trade and markets.

Marine Scotland will be writing to all vessels and relevant representative Associations with more details. Queries can be emailed to: seafisheriesintervention@gov.scot. More details can be found here.

Business Support Measures

Overview and application status update on key food and drink relevant financial support measures can now be found here.

Update - Tuesday 24th March 2020

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

New public health advice: Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of Coronavirus

This includes people of all ages – even if you do not have any symptoms or other health conditions.

You can only leave your home:

  • to shop for basic essentials– only when you really need to
  • to do one form of exercise a day– such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with other people you live with
  • for any medical need– for example, to visit a pharmacy or deliver essential supplies to a vulnerable person
  • to travel to and from work– but only where this is absolutely necessary

Request for businesses involved in food supply – stay open if you can

Businesses involved in food supply should remain open if possible, subject to being able to adhere to two requirements:

  • safe social distancing practice
  • normal health and safety requirements.

If you cannot meet both these requirements, the Scottish Government guidance is to close.

Alongside this guidance we would reiterate our guidance to businesses to reduce staffing levels on site to the bare essentials required to operate.

Business Support Measures

Overview and status update on all financial measures here.

Scottish Government Coronavirus Business SupportBusinesses can now apply for grants to help them deal with the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Small businesses in receipt of the small business bonus scheme or rural relief, as well as hospitality, leisure and retail business can benefit.

Two types of grant are now available to ratepayers:

  • a one-off £10,000 grant to ratepayers of small businesses
  • a one-off grant of £25,000 available to retail, hospitality and leisure business ratepayers with a rateable value between £18,001 and £50,999

The list is not exhaustive and if businesses think they may be eligible for one of these grants, they should contact their local authority, which are administering the scheme on behalf of the Scottish Government. Some Local Authorities may not have updated their websites yet, but will hopefully do so shortly.

Further details available here.

Update - Monday 23rd March 2020

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

Action for businesses to take now

The full statement issued by the industry this afternoon is available here.

In summary, we are asking food and drink businesses to do the following, if they have not done so already:

  • Reduce staffing levels to the lowest possible number required to maintain the production of essential goods.
  • DO NOT contact your local authority to make the case for key worker designation unless it is the measure of last resort. All other measures must be explored first (e.g. shift changes, halting some production lines, alternative childcare arrangements).
  • If you do contact your local authority, only seek designation for “business critical” roles.

Will key worker designation have relevance in a “lockdown” scenario?

A so-called ‘lockdown’ situation, which has been introduced in a number of European countries, remains an imminent prospect in the UK. In this scenario, it is expected that the movement of individuals across the country will be severely restricted for a period of time. All but essential services would halt. 

The definition and role of ‘key workers’ in this situation is unclear. At present, we hope and expect that many businesses will be able to find innovative ways to manage staff absence resulting from the school closures, illness and current self-isolation advice. Some will find real difficulty with that, hence our request for national guidance on prioritising essential food production and supply for childcare places, where there are absolutely no alternatives. However, in a lockdown scenario, new mechanisms will be required to ensure we can safeguard the movement of the workforce required to safeguard the production and provision of essential food and drink products. The industry bodies have begun thinking on this and are already discussing this scenario with Scottish Government. We’ll update you as and when things develop.

Call for national guidance to secure food supply 

Joint statement from industry bodies; Scotland Food & Drink, FDF Scotland, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Seafood Scotland, Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Scottish Seafood Association, Scottish Association Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), Dairy UK, Agricultural Industries Confederation Scotland (AIC Scotland) and Scottish Bakers.

In response to the closure of Scotland’s schools and current social distancing advice, Scotland’s leading farming, fishing, food and drink organisations are urging businesses to follow some critical steps to reduce staffing to the bare essentials required to secure Scotland’s food supply.

Read the full statement.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

  • The UK Government will pay wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

Access to the scheme

  • First step is to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change. 
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal.
  • NB (from Accountancy Daily): ‘There is limited information available and no technical guidance from HMRC as yet.  HMRC will have to create a new IT software system to run the scheme. This will take until April to complete.’
  • ​It is not clear whether directors and shareholders of owner-managed companies can put themselves 'on furlough', or how it affects zero hours workers.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website here.

  • In the first instance, businesses should approach their own provider – ideally via the lender’s website. They may also consider approaching other lenders if they are unable to access the finance they need.
  • Decision-making on whether you are eligible for CBILS is fully delegated to the 40+ accredited CBILS lenders. These lenders range from high-street banks, to challenger banks, asset-based lenders and smaller specialist local lenders. 

For more details on the Chancellors announcement please see the Johnston Carmichael website.

Update - Saturday 21st March 2020

There has been considerable confusion over the definition of “key workers” in relation to the food and drink sector in Scotland.

As of this morning, this is what we know and what is happening.

Unlike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland there is no national guidance in Scotland to include the food industry/supply chain within the definition of “key workers”. Instead, across the three broad categories of workers to be defined as ‘key workers’, as issued by Scottish Government, it is up to each of the 32 local authorities to determine if the food sector falls within the definition. Already some Councils are listing food production and supply chain workers, others are not. Given our food/drink supply chain cuts across council boundaries in Scotland there is a very real risk of supply chain disruption, exacerbating an already pressurised situation. We understand there is work ongoing to develop further guidance but, in its absence, Councils are taking their own decisions ahead of some schools opening on Monday.

Two things need to happen:

1. SF&D and our other industry partners are asking Scottish Government to issue urgent advice to all local authorities to prioritise those working in the food supply chain, under either category 2 or category 3. For clarity, we want the following wording – already adopted in England, Wales & Northern Ireland – on defining key workers:

Food and other necessary goods: This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygiene and veterinary medicines)

2. In the meantime though, all food and drink businesses should contact their local council and urge them to adopt the above wording in their definition of key workers.

It may be that, in time, we will need to more tightly define key workers in our sector, beyond what is in the wording above. However, the first step on this issue is to ensure the supply chain doesn’t suffer significant staff absence in the coming days and can maintain critical capacity and food availability.

We will keep emphasising the importance of the food supply chain, but please also remember that public health remains the top priority.  Social distancing is important.  If you can take steps to reduce the numbers of staff being together in your normal workplace, you must do so, as far as is possible.

Update - Friday 20th March 2020

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

This has been a unique week on a personal and professional level for everyone in our industry. A number of you have taken the time to drop a quick note of support or thanks to the Scotland Food & Drink team for their work. I just wanted to say that has been hugely appreciated. Our thoughts are with all of you, your workforce and your families as we all adjust to what has unfolded in recent days. 

The last 24 hours has been dominated by the impact of the schools closure and the work to define “key workers”.  During the night, the UK Government issued guidance on who are defined as key workers in ENGLAND. The food industry is included. However, the announcement on key workers in SCOTLAND this afternoon has created confusion as to what this will mean for our sector. However, we will continue to work on this through the night and will update you as soon as things develop. Our Government colleagues are aware of the urgent need for further clarity and we have stressed that this is critical right now. 

Things are moving incredibly fast, by the hour. We will do our best to stay on top of things and if anything critical changes we may email you direct. There may also be updates over the weekend as developments unfold.

As always, send any information you want to us via info@foodanddrink.scot

And, once again, feel free to share this daily update widely.

Thanks

James Withers
Chief Executive

Key workers – what has been announced?

Key workers are those individuals who will be allowed to send their children to schools, or other identified facilities, to ensure they have childcare in order to attend work.

The UK Government published guidance on key workers in the early hours of Friday morning FOR ENGLAND ONLY.  This afternoon, the Scottish Government has provided guidance to Scottish councils on how to define key workers and, at present, councils will have the final say on the exact definition of key workers based on the needs of their area. This is causing confusion and as such we and Government colleagues will be working well into the night to try to resolve this for the food and drink sector.

Clearly, the complexity of establishing, managing and ‘policing’ a key worker programme is vast and attempts are being made to deliver it in an incredibly short timeframe.  As soon as we have further information we will share directly with you by email.  

SF&D action being taken, together with our partners, beyond the key worker issue

  • Pushing for rates relief to be extended beyond hospitality and retail and into the food and drink supply chain. Also pushing for additional Government support and the primary action needs taken at UK level. For example, a wholesale break on business tax for at least three months (VAT, employers NI etc.).
  • We are still highlighting the impact on food and drink businesses of unprecedented disruption in the supply chain (recognising the effective closure of the hospitality market and major disruption to export markets). We’re working closely with our industry partners to reflect the pressure across all sectors and working hand-in-hand with Scottish Government and its agencies.
  • Exploring new routes to the UK market/consumers to pick up the sales drop in foodservice/export.
  • Exploring the role of the insurance industry in how they implement business disruption cover.
  • We are continuing to use the media to raise awareness on issues facing the Scottish food and drink supply chain. We want to highlight real business impact. If your business is willing to speak to the media, please get in touch with us at info@foodanddrink.scot

Additional support from UK Government

As we write this update, the Chancellor is announcing a package of further support for workers and businesses. We will share any important headlines from the Chancellor’s announcement over the weekend.

Whilst we recognise the urgency of action for businesses in financial distress, the industry and government in Scotland will use the weekend to digest the new funds available and develop the package for Scotland.  Scotland Food & Drink staff will be working on that over the weekend.

Update - Thursday 19th March 2020

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

It has been another incredibly busy 24 hours for the Scotland Food & Drink team working on the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak. I’d also like to stress how much work is being put in by our industry and Scottish Government partners. There is a huge collective effort in place to support the industry through an unprecedented period. The last few hours have been focussed on designating our key manufacturing and supply chain staff as ‘key workers’ for the provision of childcare. In addition, talks on support measures continue at pace.

Things are moving incredibly fast, by the hour. The risk in this daily update is that information changes as soon as we issue it.  But we’re willing to take that risk to try and keep you as up to date as possible. We will do our best to stay on top of things and if anything critical changes we may email you direct.

SF&D action being taken, together with our partners

  • Making the case for food and/or drink manufacturing workers – and key supply chain staff – to be officially designated as ‘key workers'. This is essential for safeguarding ongoing food supplies to the public. Both Scottish and UK Governments are currently weighing the options for this and we hope to have a clearer picture before Fri 20th and we will let you know as soon as we can. 
  • Pushing for rates relief to be extended beyond hospitality and retail and into the food and drink supply chain. Also pushing for additional Government support - the primary action needs to be taken at UK level.  For example, a wholesale break on business tax for at least three months (VAT, employers NI etc.).
  • We are still highlighting the impact on food and drink businesses of unprecedented disruption in the supply chain (recognising the effective closure of the hospitality market and major disruption to export markets). We’re working closely with our industry partners to reflect the pressure across all sectors and working hand-in-hand with Scottish Government and its agencies
  • Exploring new routes to the UK market/consumers to pick up the sales drop in foodservice/export.
  • We are continuing to use the media to raise awareness on issues facing the Scottish food and drink supply chain. We want to highlight real business impact. If your business is willing to speak to the media, please get in touch with us at info@foodanddrink.scot

Non-domestic rates in Scotland during Coronavirus

The Scottish Government has provided new information regarding help with non-domestic rates in Scotland during coronavirus (Covid-19). Details can be found here.

Applying for a grant and getting paid

The Scottish Government is working with Scotland's 32 Councils and other stakeholders to agree a common approach to the application process. This should help make sure there's an effective and timely processing of grants as soon as possible.

Deferring payment of non-domestic rates

If you're struggling to pay your non-domestic rates bill you should contact your local council and ask them about your payment options.

Business interruption insurance

  • SF&D spoke to 70 of our Scottish food and drink manufacturers yesterday. 97% do not have cover for Covid-19 within business interruption insurance. This is either because pandemics are not covered or that Covid-19 – a novel strain – is not on the list of recognised diseases.
  • The First Minister has committed to meet the insurance sector, UK Government too, and we will be feeding in the need for the insurance sector to play its part in supporting their customers. UK Government could explore under-writing the sector to pay out on interruption policies.

Update - Wednesday 19th March 2020

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

SF&D action being taken, together with our partners

  • Pressing for right kind of UK Government support. The package announced by the Chancellor is a start but must go further. For example, extending rates relief beyond hospitality, moving beyond a loan mechanism towards more direct cash injection/tax relief. The Chancellor has promised there is more to come so we are feeding in. The Scottish Government has announced further support - details below.
     
  • Highlighting the impact on food and drink businesses of unprecedented disruption in the supply chain (recognising the effective closure of the hospitality market and major disruption to export markets). We’re working closely with our industry partners to reflect the pressure across all sectors and working hand in hand with Scottish Government and its agencies.

Key message: this is an economic crisis. 

The UK Government will do “whatever it takes”. There is more support to be announced. Crucially, we will hear later today (Wed 18th) from Scottish Government how this will fully translate to support in Scotland. The main elements of the Chancellor’s announcement are:
  • A series of Government loans; £330 billion guarantees of economic support.
  • For SMEs, extending the business interruption loan scheme, which will offer loans of up to £5 million, from next week.
  • A specific focus on hospitality: a cash grant of £25,000 per business (with a rateable value of less than £51,000) to support them during this period.
  • For the UK’s 700,000 smallest companies, cash grants of £10,000.
  • Additionally, the business rates holiday would be extended to all businesses in “most affected sectors” for 12 months. Currently that is only defined as leisure, retail and hospitality.
  • Mortgages providers will offer a mortgage holiday for three months.
  • Insurers to pay out business interruption insurance cover where it includes pandemics.

Scottish Government funding announcement

As of 3pm (Wednesday 18 March), the First Minister had indicated the following, in response to the UK Government response:

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has confirmed (Wed 18 March) that Scottish businesses will get £2.2 billion of support

Support includes:

  • 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year.
  • £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief.
  • A full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism
  • £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.
  • Urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways.
  • Extending the go live date for the Deposit Return Scheme to July 2022.
  • Halting the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill.

In addition, it has been announced that Scottish schools will close at the end of this week.

Update - Tuesday 17th March 2020

The full daily update can be viewed here. A summary can be found below.

SF&D action being taken

  • Highlighting the impact on food and drink businesses of unprecedented disruption in the supply chain, recognising the effective closure of the hospitality market and major disruption to export markets.
  • Pressing for UK Government support. The level of support required is enormous, well beyond the means of Scottish Government (but also exploring options for support at Scottish level). Avenues being explored include tax relief, including a suspension of PAYE obligations, a holiday on VAT payment, grants to cover payroll costs.
  • Working with media to raise awareness of the impact on the Scottish food and drink supply chain.
  • Collating industry impact information to share with Government.

Latest business feedback summary

The key information provided to us by businesses will be summarised here daily.

  1. The collapse of large parts of the foodservice market in UK with orders plummeting across hotel, bars, restaurants etc. This is affecting both large and small businesses.
     
  2. Export demand has fallen dramatically, either because of the closure of hospitality outlets or major disruption to traditional routes to market (airlines, haulage etc).
     
  3. Some food and drink producers who also have a hospitality offer (such as brewers who also run bars) are facing particular challenges.
     
  4. Some manufacturers are beginning to offer home delivery of products / meals and this may be an opportunity for others. 

Business help

Based at Scottish Enterprise’s call centre in Clydebank, advisers across Scotland will answer questions from businesses related to COVID-19.

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.

To complement the helpline a new website has been created to keep businesses up-to-date with the latest guidance across a comprehensive range of important areas relating to COVID-19.  Click FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot. to access

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. 

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

For tourism businesses, VisitScotland has set-up an advice page which can be accessed here

Update - Saturday 14th March 2020

£320 million package of support for businesses

New measures to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the business community in Scotland have been announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.
 
The following steps will be put in place to support businesses during the 2020-21 financial year:
 
• a 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020
• an £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19
• 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020
• a fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020
 
The Finance Secretary will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from rate payers for payment deferrals for a fixed period. Full update.

Update - Friday 13th March 2020

Business and industry impact

Scotland Food & Drink is feeding into the Scottish Government’s resilience framework on issues affecting our sector.

We are collating a lot of feedback from member businesses, thanks to those who have sent in information already.  The situation is hugely variable depending on the sector and customer base.

For businesses particularly exposed – for example, those exporting to the worst-affected regions or those supplying the local hospitality sector here – we are encouraging Government to look at all measures that could alleviate immediate cash flow pressures (business rates, VAT/tax returns, loan support). 

Issues for business will clearly evolve and the situation could deteriorate as workforce absences increase over the coming weeks.

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