On Friday 19 June, NFDA wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP to highlight the potential impact of the delay in allowing dealerships to reopen in Scotland.
While dealerships could reopen on 1 June in England, 8 June in Northern Ireland and 22 June in Wales, dealers in Scotland have been given the green light from 29 June.
Postponing the reopening of car dealerships in Scotland until 29 June will expose many hundreds of businesses and the thousands of people they employ to profound and unnecessary economic risk. It is the Scottish Government’s responsibility to protect jobs as well as health.
On behalf of its members in Scotland, NFDA has repeatedly urged the Scottish Government to consider reopening as soon as possible in view of the specific circumstances of our sector.
On 4 June, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop MSP responded to a previous NFDA letter and outlined the Government’s plans for reopening automotive retail (alongside other retail) in Phase 2.
Following the Government’s review on 18 June, NFDA and its franchised dealer members expected showrooms in Scotland to be entitled to reopen today, Monday 22 June.
NFDA highlighted to FM Nicola Sturgeon “There remains an urgent need to supply vehicles to people and firms, so that people – including key workers - can travel to and from work, and so essential goods and services can be accessed by them or delivered to them. The availability of reliable motor vehicles – cars, vans and commercial vehicles - is essential for many people to get to work and to undertake their work safely and efficiently”.
This unexpected delay means that our members will have incurred further substantial losses. NFDA recognises the need to protect the health and safety of citizens, but the automotive retail sector has addressed all concerns and was one of the first industries to develop tailored guidance to ensure that rigorous social distancing and hygiene rules will be respected at all times.
The combination of low footfall, spacious retail footprint and strict and comprehensive industry guidelines means that showrooms are far safer for staff and customers than any other physical retail environment, including supermarkets and other essential retail segments that have been allowed to stay open throughout the crisis. Showrooms in Scotland are already prepared, with all the protective screens, sanitisers, equipment and social distancing measures in place for an immediate reopening.
NFDA urged the Scottish Government to engage with the automotive sector going forward. The lack of clear communication with our industry has meant hundreds of firms that were preparing to open today, have brought staff back from furlough to do so, are now having to shoulder the huge financial burden of a workforce who are not allowed to work.
On 25 June, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP responded to NFDA acknowledging our comments and confirming the change from the initial guidance where a size threshold for Phase 2 (800m2) was indicated. The change will permit larger retail units to also open from Monday 29 June.