SCC COVID-19 Daily Update
Early Christmas shopping lifts retail sales in October
Early Christmas shopping helped to push up shop sales in October as people spent more on clothing and on toys. Sales rose by 0.8% in October, following no growth in September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Clothing sales reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic, said the ONS. It also said second-hand stores, like charity shops and auction houses, had seen sales rise. Sales in clothing stores were only 0.5% below pre-pandemic levels, “with some retailers suggesting that early Christmas trading had boosted sales,” the ONS said.
Items that people were buying or pre-ordering earlier than usual for Christmas this year included toys and clothes, shoes and accessories. “After five months of no growth, retail sales picked up in October,” said ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner. “Although sales overall are above pre-pandemic levels, it remains a mixed picture.” Fuel sales fell sharply, returning to more normal levels after the fuel supply crisis in September, and food and online sales also dropped.
Calls for Scottish Government to increase minimum alcohol price
A group of charities and experts are calling on the Scottish Government to increase the minimum unit price of alcohol from 50p to 65p. The group argue that the positive effects of the policy will have been affected by inflation and the pandemic.
The policy sets a floor price for drinks depending on how many units of alcohol they contain. At First Minister’s Questions Nicola Sturgeon said the level of the price would be kept under review. An MUP of 65p would see a cheap litre of vodka at 37.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) increase in price from at least £18.75 to £24.38.
The group calling for the change is made up of 28 organisations, including health and children’s charities and a number of medical royal colleges. In a letter to the Scottish government, they say inflation will have “significantly eroded” the effect of MUP, while the pandemic may have eliminated any health improvement in the population. The Scottish government committed to review the minimum unit price two years after it began, but this was delayed due to the pandemic.
A Scottish government spokesperson said:
“We continue to gather evidence and analyse the impact the policy has had since its introduction in 2018.
“Prior to the pandemic, we were seeing early encouraging signs of a reduction in alcohol sales and a reduction in alcohol specific deaths.
“The pandemic and the changed legal landscape post-Brexit are two significant events that are impacting on this work and must be factored into the analysis.”
John Paul Marks appointed top civil servant at the Scottish Government
John Paul Marks has been appointed Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government and will take up post on 5 January 2022. Mr Marks joins the Scottish Government from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) where he was Director General, Work and Health Services. This appointment has been made by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, with the agreement of the UK Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case. Mr Marks will succeed Leslie Evans, who is leaving the civil service as planned upon completion of her almost-seven year term.
As chief official policy adviser, the Permanent Secretary works closely with the First Minister across the full range of responsibilities, including major strategic and policy issues, and is Secretary to the Scottish Cabinet.
Commenting, John Paul Marks said:
“I am delighted to take up the role of Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government. I am grateful to the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for this exciting opportunity. I would like to thank all the teams at the Department for Work & Pensions for their support and public service over the years. I look forward to joining the team in Scotland in the New Year as we do our very best for Scotland in these important years ahead.”
New strategy sets challenge to boost exports to £1trillion
The UK Government has launched an new ‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World’ plan to help businesses across the UK double exports and sell their world-class products around the globe. The 12-point export strategy aims to give businesses the tools they need to become a nation of exporters and reap the benefits of our free trade deals. DIT will also be expanding its Export Academy to roll it out across all of the UK including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The academy will invite owners and managers of SMEs to access masterclasses, roundtables and networking events that help them overcome common challenges first-time exporters face.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said:
“From our world-famous food and drink, to our innovative digital sector and our thriving financial services industry, Scotland is already a hugely successful exporter.
“Our exciting Export Strategy now gives us an opportunity to take that success to the next level and become a true global trade powerhouse.
“Levelling up across the whole UK is at the heart of the strategy, and DIT’s dedicated Edinburgh hub will further ensure that Scottish businesses reap the rewards as we unlock export opportunities in every corner of the world.”
International Business Mission to Dubai Expo – Clean Energy & Climate Change by Scottish Chamber Network – Expo 2020
The Scottish Chamber of Commerce international network is pleased to invite applications from Scottish businesses to a trade mission to Dubai Expo focusing on clean energy and climate change. Running from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo ever hosted in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. It will welcome more than 25million visitors and 190 countries with a stated aim of hosting a World Expo that inspires people by showcasing the best examples of collaboration, innovation and cooperation from around the world.
The UK Pavilion will be hosting Scotland’s Race to Net Zero Day on January 19 and the World Future Energy Summit is being held in Abu Dhabi from January 17-19, making it the ideal time for businesses shifting from fossil fuels to take part in the delegation. Businesses that would benefit from participating include renewable energy, low carbon heat, low carbon transport, offshore wind, blue and green hydrogen and oil & gas transition. A week of activities is being organised for the delegation, along with some free time for delegates to attend Dubai Expo and the World Future Energy Summit.
This trade mission is open to any business in Scotland looking to access international markets and companies do not need to be a Chamber member.
The SCC Business Support Hub
The Business Support Hub on the SCC website has been created to enable businesses to find useful information quickly. The Hub is updated daily and includes information on business support, access to finance, contact numbers, public information and travel advice.