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A group of tourism retailers on the Royal Mile have made a plea to Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government to present a case for ‘special assistance’ to save jobs after dozens of shops on the iconic street have remained closed due to it not being financially viable to open.

In an open letter from traders they described the Royal Mile as ‘undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Scottish tourism’ but added that it is now a shadow of its former self and that urgent assistance is required to save the livelihoods of Scots who have put their hearts and souls into businesses that, on the Royal Mile alone, employs thousands of people whose jobs are imminently at risk.

As restrictions lift and staycations are on the cards for many Scots, tourism traders on the Royal Mile have still found themselves in a ‘dismal’ situation.

In an open letter from traders they described the Royal Mile as ‘undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Scottish tourism’ but added that it is now a shadow of its former self and that urgent assistance is required to save the livelihoods of thousands of people whose jobs are imminently at risk.

“This past weekend being a Bank Holiday and school holiday, a survey of 15 Royal Mile businesses reports an 80 to 90 per cent drop in takings as ‘staycationers from Scotland may well purchase food and beverage but do not purchase tourist gifts.’

“Landlords including the City of Edinburgh Council are demanding full rent be paid for the last six months although businesses were closed by government decree yet I have no doubt that if a council house tenant could not gain access to their council house for six months the council would not charge them rent.

“We as a group are fully aware that City of Edinburgh Council are also in a difficult financial position and appeal to them also to reach out to the Scottish Government and present a case for assistance for Royal Mile Traders who find themselves in a unique difficulty of losing the lifeblood of international tourists.”

John Thorburn is one of the retailers who says he feels ‘anxious’ about the future if urgent assistance is not provided

Traders also claimed that dozens of emails have been sent to various MSPs, MPs, councillors and the Minister for Tourism, who received 23 emails from one trader, with most not responding, and the others ‘passed on’ to other departments.

The letter adds: “It seems our elected representatives abandoned us in our time of need. It will be some time before our industry returns to normal and government support is urgently needed and a plan for future support agreed. The Scottish government continually finds millions of pounds to support businesses and industries that have no hope of survival whilst the highly successful tourist retail sector is left to rot.”

One trader, John Thorburn, who owns family-run business Really Scottish has said that this is a plea for help, and much needed dialogue.

He said: “Things are dismaly quiet, we just wish someone would respond to us. Edinburgh is a city that thrives on international tourism and expensive rents are justified by high footfall, but that hasn’t been the case for the last 15 months.

“There are thousands employed on this street, we’ve made posters for outside our shops and we’re not anti-SNP, but they are the ones in government who aren’t helping us.

“I’m very anxious about the financial situation. The tourism industry in Edinburgh will return, but it will take some time.

“My business has been here for more than 20 years and like other businesses is very much a part of the Royal Mile, but we need some support for those people like us whose livelihoods and lives are here, as well as the future. We can’t be burdened with further debt.”

Council Leader, Adam McVey said: “It has been an extremely difficult time for every business across the city who have had to close their doors during lockdown and have worked extremely hard to curb the spread of the virus and protect customers. We’ve seen a fantastic amount of innovation of traders, taking their business offer online, developing takeaway offers for customers and diversifying their offer to keep going as circumstances have changed.

“Over past year, we have made over 19,000 payments of over £250m to businesses through grant funds provided by the Scottish Government to help businesses to stay afloat.

“Shops operating from Council units who approached us to seek assistance with their rents were offered up to 6-months rent free in financial year 2020/21 and we’ve approved the use of repayment plans for those tenants still seeking assistance for the second half of that financial year to be as flexible we can to help businesses recover.”

Depute Leader Cammy Day, said: “We continue to have ongoing discussions with Scottish Government around support for businesses in areas that remain in Level 2. And as we look ahead to the wider economic recovery of our Capital we’re actively developing plans through our Economic Development Strategy and our City Centre Recovery Plan to help drive momentum, generate footfall, development inspirational campaigns like Forever Edinburgh and help to deliver our world renowned Festivals. While also working on targeted support in conjunction with local areas, like our Shop Here This Year campaign and collaborating with business groups.”

A family may not have been told that the death of their child was linked to an infection at Glasgow’s flagship hospital, Anas Sarwar has claimed.

More than 80 infected children and two deaths have been linked to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

But the Scottish Labour leader said one family had still not been told that their child was affected.

He said it was feared it could be the family of one of the two children who died.

Mr Sarwar told the Scottish Parliament that the infections at the Glasgow hospital campus were the “biggest scandal of the devolution era”.

He said there were still families “fighting for the truth and for justice” over what happened to their children.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that all but one of the families involved had been contacted – and insisted that there had been “rigorous” attempts to get in touch with the relatives who had not yet been reached.

The first minister said a full independent inquiry had already been commissioned into the “incredibly serious matter” of the water-borne infections at the Glasgow hospital campus.

An independent review found that 84 children were infected with rare bacteria while undergoing treatment at the £850m QUEH campus.

More than 30 of the sick children – including the two that died – were found to have infections linked to contaminated water supply

The mother of one child – 10-year-old Milly Main, who was recovering from leukaemia when she went into toxic shock and died in August 2017 – has called for health officials to resign.

Milly’s family only found out about the probable cause of her death in a newspaper.

A review team managed to contact the families of 83 of the children involved, but have been unable to reach one – and Mr Sarwar told MSPs it was “feared” that this was the family of the other child who died.

The Scottish Labour leader said that clinicians had been trying to raise the alarm for years – and that the scandal involved “denials, bullying of clinicians, cover-ups and parents of sick children being blamed for their illnesses.”

He added: “Two children died in Scotland’s flagship hospital due to a water-borne infection.

“One family had to find out by fighting the health board, and the other family may not even know.

“This is the biggest scandal of the devolution era, but inexplicably there are still families fighting for the truth and for justice.”

Ms Sturgeon replied that an “expert panel” had provided individual reports to the families of the patients covered by the review, but had “regrettably and despite extensive efforts” been unable to get in touch with one family.

She said: “I have had an assurance that there have been rigorous attempts to contact the remaining family, and regrettably it has not been possible to contact them.

“I know NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will continue to take all reasonable and appropriate steps to contact that family.”

Mr Sarwar said the first minister’s response was “not good enough”, and that someone should take responsibility for the scandal.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon was health secretary when this hospital was commissioned, and she was first minister when it opened despite an independent review finding that the water supply was not safe.

“But the only people that have paid the price for this scandal have been the families and the whistleblowers.

“Years on, why has nobody taken responsibility? Why have there been no consequences, why are families still having to fight for the truth? Who is going to be held accountable?”

Ms Sturgeon replied that “this is a matter of utmost seriousness”, and said attempts to contact the family would continue.

She said: “I am not disputing that this is an incredibly serious matter – what I am disputing is that the government is not taking this seriously and is not determined to get to the bottom of what happened, from the opening of the hospital right through to now, to make sure families have answers to their questions.”

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