By Dave Berry, former council leader

ALTHOUGH the lockdown has yet to change in Scotland, the easing of lockdown against Covid-19 in England shows light at the end of this dark viral tunnel where we are all hibernating. Any recovery must not be purely medical; our county’s prosperity will need to recover as well.

Compared to scale of sharp drops in employment and income elsewhere, we in East Lothian have not fared quite as badly. Our large numbers of retirees still have their pensions, if not their recreation options.

The farmers are busy coping with a very dry spring. The almost 30,000 of us who normally commute to work elsewhere have mostly managed to work from home or take advantage of the furlough scheme. Most of East Lothian Council’s staff work on as key employees, emptying bins, maintaining roads, caring for the vulnerable, etc.

With sports centres and libraries closed, the brilliant weather has offered outdoor exercise, even though golf courses and tennis courts are unavailable.

However, our critical local businesses are concentrated in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors.

These have suffered drastically. Non-food shops are closed. Cafes, pubs and restaurants – the venues for our own socialising, as well as that of visitors – are reduced to takeaways.

All attractions are closed – from the Seabird Centre, the castles, Museum of Flight, Glenkinchie distillery (already closed for reconstruction), to East Links Country Park.

Events such as Lammermuir Festival and Fringe by the Sea are cancelled. Hotel, caravan parks and holiday home bookings have evaporated, just as the season was starting.

But even for our small businesses, not all is bad news. Several, like Home Hardware, Bostock Bakery and the Castle Inn are open, surviving on delivery orders alone. Many sole traders are on furlough or still finding work enough to survive.

Some commercial landlords have shown mercy and not demanded full rent. Those scunnered by delay and paperwork of banks offering loans have found grants through the council more accessible – the online form is simple and processed in three weeks to secure £10,000 or more, depending on rateable value. The Chancellor tapering furlough support into October is a welcome addition to this.

Now, if Rishi would reduce VAT on tourism (as Tory backbenchers want) and Nicola would release golf courses, tennis courts and other outdoor recreation spaces this summer, we might plan how to welcome potential staycation visitors to relax here to avoid spend two weeks in quarantine as punishment for venturing abroad.