At the start of the current health crisis, supermarkets reported panic buying of key essentials like toilet roll, hand sanitiser and baby formula. Many such goods then appeared for sale online at hugely inflated prices.

To their credit, websites such as eBay and Amazon penalised traders attempting to profiteer from the crisis, but it is sad that while so many people have offered to assist vulnerable neighbours in these difficult times, others have sought to line their pockets.

Some high street banks are also taking advantage of people and businesses impacted by the shutdown.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Bank of England base rate was cut to a record low of 0.1 per cent, but some banks not only failed to reduce mortgage payments accordingly, they placed customers in further difficulty by hiking unauthorised overdraft charges, personal loans and credit card charges.

At a time of national crisis when millions of jobs and livelihoods are at risk and cash flows disrupted, it is shameful that any bank would increase borrowing costs.  Indeed, debt charities have recently seen a huge rise in people struggling with debt and additional charges will only exacerbate the hardship felt by many.

Such is the concern that the Financial Conduct Authority suggested repayments on loans and credit cards should be frozen for up to three months for those in trouble since COVID-19 has caused an “unprecedented financial shock.”

Moreover, while the UK Government has announced state-backed interest free loans for the first year for businesses to provide owners in financial distress, some banks are only allowing business customers to apply if they don’t qualify for one of their own loan products, charging exorbitant rates in the process.

Government measures are being undermined by greedy lenders; actions which can only result in many small business owners being forced into bankruptcy. Indeed, the Secretary of State for Business has warned banks that it would be “completely unacceptable” if they were found to be “unfairly refusing funds to good businesses in financial difficulty,” especially given the taxpayer-funded bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crash.

Banks are being asked to take minimal risks backed by the state and should provide support to customers, not increase profits at their expense.

However, as the spirit required to fight this virus has obviously not reached the headquarters of some banks, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer highlighting this issue and asking him to ensure that taxpayers money provided to ease financial pressures on the public is passed on by banks.

The SNP Government announced a number of measures at this critical time, including £2.2 billion to help sustain businesses and, crucially, help them pay staff and support their fair treatment, with £60 million to help businesses facing difficulties with water charges during the outbreak and transferring an extra £950 million to local authorities to provide grants.

Action is being taken to protect employment.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will pay 80 per cent of the wages of workers, up to £2,500 a month, on furlough.

However, much more needs to be done to help the 1.7 million self-employed people currently receiving no assistance.

The SNP Government allocated a further £1.038 million to North Ayrshire Council to support those who are struggling to access food.

If you are struggling with your finances, please contact StepChange for free confidential and expert advice or call 0800 1381111.

If you run a small business needing support, check out or call 0300 3030660.