SMALL businesses have warned they are on the verge of collapse without clarity over the future of weddings.

Around 95% of Scotland’s wedding suppliers, including caterers, bands and dressmakers, are expected to have been primarily out of business since lockdown measures began last March, findings by the Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance (SWIA) has revealed.

Earlier this week, the industry hoped First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would provide a detailed roadmap illustrating the path back to normal ceremonies.

However, the absence of information regarding guest limits and entertainment prospects beyond April 26 has been dubbed a “major disappointment” by suppliers.

Glasgow Times:

Catherine Cockburn, who runs dressmaker brand Magpie Moments from her home in East Kilbride, has urged the Scottish Government to offer further clarity to businesses like hers.

She said: “Everything has been on hold since March last year – proms, communions and weddings – really all special occasions. 

“I think in the last year, we’ve done two weddings.

“We’re usually up to our eyes. I used to do 18 or 19-hour days and I’ve gone from that to basically nothing.”

Ms Cockburn said businesses need more notice than is being offered to ensure they have time to meet couples’ needs.

She added: “It’s not as simple as saying ‘weddings can start on April 26’. 

“I’m a fan of Nicola Sturgeon and my hat’s off to her, but this week’s announcement is really disappointing. There’s no other way to describe it.

“I understand why they’re taking this slow and steady approach, but we need some sort of clarity around numbers and what can be done when or businesses won’t survive.”

Ms Cockburn has echoed concerns raised by SIWA who’ve warned Scotland could lose out as couples head across the border to England to tie the knot following Boris Johnson’s guidance of normality resuming in June. 

Alannah Clark, a wedding make-up artist from Shawlands, says the travel restrictions outwith council areas have all but halted her ability to earn money.

The 26-year-old said: “I’ve been doing this about five years, but most of my work is outside of Glasgow.

“My brides tend to get married outside of the city so, even when weddings could go ahead properly, couples were having to choose local suppliers and I couldn’t get a look in.

“It wasn’t working for anyone because I couldn’t earn money and Glasgow brides who were getting married elsewhere couldn’t get trials because they had to opt for an artist closer to their venue.”

Glasgow Times:

Last month, finance secretary Kate Forbes announced a £25 million fund – a boost of £10m from the £15m offered in December, last year – for one-off grants of up to £25,000 for contractors struggling without a steady stream of weddings and other events to keep them afloat. 

Speaking at the time, Ms Forbes the pandemic’s impact on the wedding industry had been “severe” and she appreciated the measures taken to control the virus had “taken their toll” on businesses. 

However, SIWA insists this week’s announcement was not enough to allow companies to stay afloat. 

In an open letter to the First Minister, co-founders Duncan McConchie and Caroline Inchyra are losing £205m a month as couples opt to postpone or even cancel their big days rather than face a wedding filled with restrictions.

It said mental health of suppliers across the country is “alarming” with statistics showing around 79% are struggling with stress and anxiety, while around 75% are having trouble sleeping.

The letter said: “We understand that the next few months are fraught with unknowns, getting schools back and opening up other essential services. 

“However, we are not an industry which can respond as immediately as other parts of hospitality. If someone can’t go out for dinner today – they’ll probably go out in a month – this isn’t the case for weddings. 

“We need hope, proactive working groups around testing and a public campaign to support the work which will be done.”

It added: “At a press briefing in January First Minister, you said how vital weddings were to society and that the Scottish Government would work with the industry to get it to the other side of the bridge. We need that help now – literally now.”

It called on the Scottish Government to exclude suppliers from guest numbers, allow in-person viewings to commence under coronavirus protocols and permit services “essential” to planning to resume.

Speaking on social media, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Wedding Association said: “It’s tough for both couples and suppliers. The rules just keep changing and I don’t think enough has been done to help suppliers. So many lost their businesses.

“We’ve just got to get on with it.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was offering financial support to those involved.

She said:“Couples can marry at the moment but we recognise the current limits on numbers are hard on both couples and the wedding industry. However, the restrictions are needed at the moment on public health grounds.

“We’re providing support worth £25 million through the Scottish Wedding Industry Fund. 

“It provides one-off grants of up to £25,000 for eligible businesses in the sector impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including wedding venues, photographers, caterers and suppliers. 

“Ongoing financial support is set out in the Strategic Framework and we continue to press the UK Government to ensure key support packages, such as the furlough scheme and VAT relief are kept in place for as long as they are needed.”