THE coronavirus pandemic has been an incredibly difficult time for businesses.

With the announcement of lockdown, the vast majority were forced to close overnight.

Many businesses have risen to the challenge, offering more products and services online, and cafes and restaurants have shifted to provide more products for takeaway. But some businesses have had no choice but to remain closed.

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy so, whilst it was slightly later than in England, it is very welcome that restaurants, cafes, hotels and self-catering accommodation in Scotland are now allowed to reopen.

It has been extremely encouraging to see how well these businesses have adapted to ensure that people can return to their premises whilst keeping safe and adhering to physical distancing.

The UK Government is doing everything it can to support this sector get back on its feet in Scotland.

In addition to the billions of pounds for businesses support already provided, the reduction in VAT on tourism and hospitality will be a real boost for the industry and the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount scheme throughout August will also help to bring in customers.

Please get out and support our local businesses across the wee County. They really do need your help.

The chancellor also recently announced a grant of £1000 to companies for every worker brought back from furlough, and a kickstart scheme to get more young people into jobs.

Around 736,500 Scots have already been supported by the furlough scheme whilst 155,000 Scots have accessed the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The UK Government has also delivered £5billion extra to support councils, health and social care, the arts, and businesses.

These are all examples of the UK Government delivering for Scotland and they really do demonstrate the benefits of Scotland’s place in a strong United Kingdom.

Tomorrow we will finally find out whether schools in Scotland will return full time in August.

As I wrote last month, the Scottish Government finally bowed to pressure from parents and educational experts to abandon its plans that could have seen children going to school for as little as a day a week.

But, less than two weeks before schools return and with pubs, restaurants and shops all open, we still don’t have a final decision on schools.

We have seen a complete lack of leadership from the Scottish Government on the reopening of schools. Assuming that there is no further U-turn tomorrow and that schools will indeed reopen in August, we need a firm commitment that there will not be a postcode lottery for the amount of schooling pupils get.

Scottish children have already missed out on nearly three months of classroom education and simply cannot afford to lose anymore.

The first minister has previously said that education is her number one priority and staked her reputation on that claim.

The lack of leadership on this issue seriously undermines that ambition and parents deserve better from the Scottish Government on this important issue.