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STEPHEN SUTHERLAND: Rising costs of energy for businesses has a real impact across the north Highlands

By John Davidson

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View from the Board by Stephen Sutherland

Stephen Sutherland.
Stephen Sutherland.

The energy price crisis is one of the biggest issues facing businesses today across the north Highlands – our own electricity bill along with many others has recently risen by 80 per cent, which is an almost unbelievable rise in such a short period of time, adding significant cost to doing business.

While much of the focus has been on the direct cost of energy, the rise in indirect costs is equally alarming.

The cost of raw materials has increased, particularly for energy-intensive materials such as steel – by over 100 per cent.

Adding into the mix government policies such as the decision to remove the usage of red diesel, increases in National Insurance and fuel costs all means businesses are faced with a punishing and unsustainable rise in costs.

This is not an abstract problem but one which affects everyday life in the north Highlands across all sectors. Uncertainty on costs can often mean contracts being delayed or scaled back and in turn means that work to deliver vital services and infrastructure is deferred, with real impacts for those living and working in the region.

It is hard to think of a time when things have been harder for businesses. The impacts of Brexit are still being felt, recovery from Covid-19 is only just beginning, and now the war in Ukraine is causing uncertainty throughout Europe.

This said, businesses in this area have proved time after time to be resilient and resourceful, but we also need support from our governments and those elected to represent us. We need our voices to be heard and serious consideration given to solving the issues we currently face.

The Chamber will continue to fight to ensure that the voice of business is heard at all levels of government.

  • Stephen Sutherland is the chair of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce board and is also a director of JGC Engineering and Technical Services.

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