Covid funding for business – update on latest discussions
Since the reintroduction of significant restrictions on the hospitality sector just before Christmas, the Scotland Food & Drink team has been in discussion with Scottish Government Ministers and officials on support grants for business.
Further discussions have been held again this week with hopes of details for schemes being published in the coming days. £8 million has been earmarked to support the food and drink supply chain. A general support scheme for food and drink producers is in development, targeted at businesses who lost income or stock because of order cancellations. This will likely be added as part of a broadened scheme also encompassing wholesalers with individual applications and bespoke grant awards. Grant support for brewers has also been a focus of discussion, with SIBA also involved from the industry side. This scheme will likely follow the previous model with a flat rate grant based on rateable value of the business. A scheme to support event caterers who faced cancelations and loss of income is also in development. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed (@scotfooddrink) next week for any emerging information.
Latest news on restrictions
Hospitality and events: Large outdoor events have now resumed without physical distancing or capacity limits. Next Monday (24 January) will see the removal of restrictions on hospitality. That includes the removal of one metre physical distancing and table service in hospitality venues. Attendance limits at indoor events will also be removed, putting them on the same footing as outdoor events. However, the requirement to collect customer details in hospitality settings remains in place, so too the use of face coverings in public places and on public transport. The current Covid certification scheme also remains in place.
General guidance: People are still asked to work from home wherever possible, with hybrid working likely to be reintroduced from February. The guidance to limit interaction indoors to a maximum of three households is also being lifted but with ongoing advice to limit contacts and take lateral flow tests before meeting
International travel: People travelling to Scotland from abroad who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 no longer need to take pre-departure Covid tests. They are also no longer require to self-isolate on arrival until they've received a negative result. Travellers in this group will still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving in the UK - which can be a lateral flow device rather than a PCR test. Anyone who tests positive on their lateral flow test will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test.
Labour shortages – discussions with Scottish Government
The ongoing challenges with labour shortages have shown no signs of abating. Indeed, if you are facing particular challenges as a business please get in touch with us; the more detail we have the better and it will aide our discussions with Ministers. We met Scottish Government at the end of last week to discuss making the case for 24-month visas for overseas workers. Other mechanisms have also been discussed including expanding the existing Youth Mobility Scheme (for 18-31 year olds) to EU countries, as well as a Rural Migration Policy, supported by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and the previous Home Secretary. Engaging UK Government on the subject has proved difficult for food and farming organisations across the UK, but with evidence of challenges in the sector so clear, we hope to make some progress in the early part of 2022.
Proof of EU settled status
For any of you with EU staff in your business, it is worth noting that there are updated resources from the Scottish Government to help EU citizens living in Scotland access and prove their immigration status online. With no physical proof of immigration status, EU citizens currently have to use the Home Office’s digital-only system to prove their rights in the UK and there have been reports of some struggling to use the “view and prove” system. Information is available on mygov.scot and there is a free helpline on 0800 916 9847 to answer queries on how to use the online system.
New Export Health Certificates
The new health certification rules for exports of fish, crustaceans and molluscs are now in force. Seafood Scotland's team of Brexit specialists are available for any enquiries seafood exporters may have. Contact details and more information including their recent webinar and accompanying presentation are available on their website here. Full details of the changes now implemented can be found here.
Good Food Nation Bill call for evidence – Scotland Food & Drink response
Late last year the Scottish Government introduced to Parliament its Good Food Nation Bill which seeks to put a legal duty on the Scottish Government, local authorities and health boards to produce and publish good food nation plans as a way of accelerating our journey to becoming a good food nation and embedding this culture across all parts of the public sector – more details can be found here.
The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Committee has been seeking views from stakeholders as part of its evidence sessions on the Bill and our response can be seen here. We are supportive of the Bill’s objectives. However, we believe it could be strengthened in order to further support Scottish producers and have made some suggestions to do so including: putting a legal duty on public authorities to consider Scottish suppliers for any food contract or provision; a requirement for public authorities to report annually on their levels of Scottish sourcing; and linking the granting of licences for public events to local suppliers. We will keep you updated on progress with the Bill as it makes its passage through Parliament.