By Iain Gray, East Lothian MSP


ON THE day this column is published, the First Minister is due to give the latest update on Scotland’s route out of lockdown.

This should involve a further easing of restrictions, including allowing people to meet up with another household indoors, as long as physical distancing is maintained, potentially allowing more shops and businesses to re-open and the resumption of professional sport.

The re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, so vital here in East Lothian, was discussed in Parliament last week.

Ministers confirmed that they hope to see this happen in phase three, starting on July 15. This date is subject to change based on scientific evidence, and there will be understandable apprehension from the sector about making decisions on re-opening over the next few weeks.

However, it does at least create some hope that, after more than three months of economic pain, something can be salvaged of the summer season.

The impact of Covid-19 on the East Lothian economy has already been acute, with an independent forecast published last week suggesting the county’s economic output could shrink by 7.2 per cent this year.

A new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland underlines the desperate situation facing many small businesses, with over a third unsure if they will even be able to reopen.

One of the report’s recommendations is that government should continue to provide financial support to businesses during the recovery phase. I strongly support this call because our tourism, hospitality and other local businesses have suffered through no fault of their own. They need dedicated support to get back on their feet in the months and years ahead.

Finally, I have announced this week that I will be retiring at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

It has been a great honour to serve this constituency and I thank all the many constituents, businesses, charities and other organisations that have shown me such kindness and support over the last 13 years.