David Richardson, head of regional development of the FSB.

The tumultuous events of the last 12 days have gripped the country, the Elizabethan age is coming to an abrupt end and the time of Charles III is upon us.

But as sad, emotional and thought-provoking as it all is, the minds of many business owners in Inverness and the wider Highlands are occupied by events closer to home: their bottom line.

With energy and other costs rising sharply, interest rates set to rise further, debt such as repayable loans, severe shortages of key personnel and certain materials and, of course, increasingly volatile consumer demand, it is not surprising that business confidence is falling sharply.

As FSB and media commentators consistently point out, the UK as a whole is in dire straits and business needs help.

And while the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to cap energy prices for businesses as well as home users is very welcome, we need to know what this means in practice before we can properly assess it.

But the help should not stop there. We want the Government to make sure businesses are not left on the edge after the end of the six-month price cap, to reverse the upcoming rise in National Insurance contributions and to reduce fuel duty and VAT, especially on non-domestic energy.

We also expect the Highland Council to use the almost £3m of Covid Business Support Grant, now under-spent in its coffers, to support small local businesses over the winter.

Finally, at this time of danger to local businesses, economies and communities, nothing new can be introduced that could make things worse.

The FSB is calling on Highland Council to freeze fees and charges in areas such as waste, licensing and planning, and rents for commercial properties for at least two years.

It is vital that the introduction of controversial and expensive innovations such as the short-term licensing scheme, the deposit and return scheme and the local visitor levy should be suspended until the economy stabilizes.

Why gamble with the lives of businesses and the jobs they provide?

David Richardson is head of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

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