Paul Douglas is the vice-president of Rigid Haulers and managing director of Terex Trucks, based in Motherwell, Scotland. After prime minister Boris Johnson unveiled his exit strategy from the UK Covid-19 pandemic on May 10, Douglas approached The Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland to offer his views, with the divergence in approach between Westminster and Holyrood a concern.
As a business leader, Douglas does not underestimate the challenge ahead for the UK in restarting the economy but remained defiant in the face of the task ahead.
Douglas said: “For certain, we will beat this virus as a country and come out strong, however getting the economy back on its feet may prove more challenging.”
Paying tribute to the UK government’s business support measures, such as the Job Retention Scheme, Douglas added: “The support programmes the government introduced are very, very good, beyond anything we expected. We are mainly using the furlough scheme to guarantee job retention at our business.”
Douglas also welcomed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement this week that the scheme will be extended to October, but hinted that the changes to the initiative must be well publicised ahead of time.
“We do welcome the chancellor’s extension to the furlough scheme, but as businesses we need to see in detail the changes to the support structure to understand what eventualities we need to plan for beyond July.”
As lockdown restrictions begin to be eased in England and in some other nations, Douglas explained that some of the firms’ customers are beginning to operate normally again.
“Globally, we are seeing some of our customers coming back to life and recommencing operations. These first rays of light at the end of the tunnel can only be a positive thing.”
Yet, considering that the Rigid Haulers and Terex Trucks facilities are based in Scotland, the refusal of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon to lift restrictions in line with England as of yet means that business lockdown in Scotland is still very much underway, other than within key industries. For Douglas, this is having a hand in causing some disruption.
Douglas said: “The biggest frustration for us is the divergence in approach of the UK government and Scottish government in their respective position on tactics to reopen the economy.
“Having our facility up in Scotland, we are still being told to remain at home. This causes some confusion for our corporate leaders who, looking from outside the UK, struggle to understand who sets the rules and how the devolved nations work.”