Column for Turriff Advertiser 11/9/20

I was very pleased to see so many people in Banff and Buchan were able to take advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out offer of discounted meals at local restaurants.

Figures released by the UK Government this week showed that 66,000 cut-price lunches and dinners were claimed.

The total discount – paid back to restaurants by HM Treasury – was £397,000. That worked out to an average saving for customers of £6 for every meal.

I know that several eateries in Turriff signed up for the scheme, which ran throughout the month of August on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. My family and I were among those who ate out – although I also paid full price at a local restaurant to mark my wedding anniversary which fell on a Friday this year!

Aside from saving customers a few pounds, the real benefit of this initiative was to provide some support to the hospitality trade, which was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The offer will have helped support local jobs and provided a welcome boost for business owners on what are traditionally quieter days of the week. It also encouraged more of us to get out and about and spend money after several months in lockdown.

It was one of a host of measures introduced by the UK Chancellor to stimulate our economy – which include the furlough scheme paying the wages of a third of the whole Scottish workforce. The hospitality sector also benefited from the cut to VAT from 20% down to 5%, a reduction which remains in effect until January next year.

This is all part of the effort to get our economy moving again.

There is still a long way to go, however, and there is no easy solution.

Some sectors of course, never stopped working – including our agriculture and food and drink industries.

Many farmers will have been working flat out over the last couple of weeks harvesting malting barley crops. That is one of the many reasons why I was delighted to support ‘Back British Farming’ day this week. It is the fifth year of the promotion to celebrate the best of UK agriculture and the benefits it brings to our plates and to the environment.

That brings me to a familiar topic that is still raised by many constituents.

Despite constant scaremongering to the contrary, the importation of chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef will remain banned post-Brexit.

The EU law has been transferred and enshrined in UK law, which cannot be changed in any future trade deal. The UK Government has been in constant engagement with NFU Scotland, QMS Scotland and the Scottish Beef Association.

I am more than happy to discuss this in detail with any farmer concerned about it.

On a final note, I must remind all Turriff Advertiser readers that we still need to be staying alert to the presence of coronavirus in our communities.

Figures released over the weekend were the highest since May – making clear that the virus has not gone away. It is very important that we all stick to the social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Our schools and workplaces – including those in hospitality and tourism – have gone to great lengths to put measures in place to keep us safe, but we all have a role to play.