BUSINESS leaders have expressed concerns over the impact a decision to put East Renfrewshire in the toughest tier of lockdown restrictions will have. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed yesterday that the area is being moved from level three to level four, which will mean a shutdown of all non-essential shops, as well as pubs, restaurants, hair salons, barbers, gyms and leisure centres.

The new rules, similar to a full lockdown, come into force at 6pm on Friday and last until at least December 11.

Laura Molloy, president of East Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce (ERCC), told the Barrhead News: “The impact of short-term moving between tiers on businesses cannot be underestimated.

“The balance between public health and the economy does not need to be a ‘one or the other’ approach. Alternatives to a stop-start economy, such as testing in schools and airports, should be considered.

“Businesses have invested heavily on creating safe environments for people to visit. This should be ramped up, not down.

“By not having an agreed, consistent package of business support to accompany each tier before the strategy was released, businesses are left with being unable to plan for the short-term, let alone the next year.

“The reintroduction of the furlough scheme, while hugely welcome, represents just one aspect of operational costs. If our economy is going to survive the winter, we would like to see far more effective data-led targeting of areas and behaviours that accelerate the growth of the virus, rather than shutting the economy down, as this is not viable or sustainable.”

East Renfrewshire is one of 11 council areas being placed into Scotland’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, along with the likes of neighbouring Glasgow.

Schools will stay open but non-essential travel into or out of the area will be banned – a rule which will become law from Friday.

Ms Sturgeon said tougher restrictions are necessary as East Renfrewshire has “stubbornly and worryingly high” infection rates.

She also said the intention is for a “short and sharp” clampdown.

“It is specifically intended to have an impact in advance of Christmas and the most challenging winter period,” added Ms Sturgeon.

“We will assess nearer the time the level that will apply in each area when the level four restrictions end on December 11.”