Scottish Bakers welcomed Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands to McGhee’s Bakery in Glasgow to witness first-hand how hard bakers are working to keep fresh baked goods on the shelves.
Ms Gougeon was welcomed by Scottish Bakers President Ian Mcghee, who is also production director at his family’s bakery business and chief executive Alasdair Smith, both were on hand to explore a number of increasingly pressing issues.
The Cabinet Secretary heard that throughout the darkest days of the pandemic, Scottish Bakers members worked hard to keep baking, recognising the vital role they have in Scotland’s food chain.
The primary topic of conversation however was just how challenging the current economic environment is for Scottish Bakers members with soaring energy and ingredients costs placing a significant strain on bakery owners who are claiming to be experiencing an ‘existential threat’ to their businesses. This is coupled with a very challenging recruitment market with many businesses struggling to find new staff and to retain existing skilled employees.
Scottish Bakers has welcomed the relief provided through Westminster for business, but remains concerned about the future beyond the end of March 2023 when the current energy cap for business is scheduled to end.
President Ian McGhee urged the Scottish Government to do what it could to help mitigate the many measures faced by businesses in the current climate including rates relief for business manufacturing sites, delaying the introduction of potentially costly new regulation and providing access to grants to install renewable energy sources.
Scottish Bakers was one of 19 business bodies that wrote to the Scottish Government’s Deputy First Minister and Interim Finance Secretary asking him to freeze the business rate in the coming financial year.
Ian McGhee reiterated the concerns laid out in the letter stating: “Scotland’s business rate is already at a 23-year high but after two turbulent years of the pandemic, the fact is trading conditions remain challenging, the cost of doing business is spiralling, and the near-term economic outlook is weak. We stand ready to trade and to train our way out of the current situation but the Government must do its bit to give us a fighting chance.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “I was very pleased to visit Auld’s Delicious Desserts and McGhee’s bakery and to see at first hand the facilities and products of these excellent Scottish businesses. I am also thankful for the opportunity to discuss matters of interest to the bakery sector.
“In recent years the sector has been facing unprecedented challenges, with the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic and Brexit, and now with the high energy prices, labour shortages as well as the cost of living crisis. I very much appreciate the incredible resilience shown by the businesses in adapting and continuing to help feed the nation.
“We will continue to work with the sector on a range of initiatives to address the current issues where we can. We have provided £10 million of funding over 2020-22 towards the food and drink sector’s recovery plan, with a further £5 million allocated for 2022-23. We remain committed to supporting the sector, and will also continue to engage with, and call for, UK Government to take action to support businesses in reserved areas such as energy and migration.”