Scottish Government announces additional £220m of support for businesses following angry backlash

Kate Forbes, finance secretary

The Scottish Government has announced that it will make a further £220 million of grants available for businesses including those with multiple branches after business objections that Scotland did not match the English support scheme.  

The new package of measures includes £120m to extend the Small Business Grant scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, small business ratepayers will be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties.

A further £100m fund is also being made available to protect self-employed people including the recently self-employed, and viable micro and SME businesses in distress due to COVID-19. This fund will be channelled through local authorities and enterprise agencies to target newly self-employed people and businesses who are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK Government schemes.  

Applications for the £100m fund will be open by the end of the month, and the new arrangements for the Small Business Grant will be in place to receive applications on 5 May.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government’s primary concern remains protecting people’s health, but it is still the case that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having severe economic consequences for businesses around the country. We are doing everything we can to support business at this difficult time and we continue to listen to and engage with the sector.

“Our support for business now exceeds the £2.2 billion passed on from the UK Government and actively works to fill the gaps in the UK schemes.

“Around 100,000 businesses in total are already eligible for our small business grants and from today we will be extending that scheme in response to feedback from businesses on the frontline of this economic crisis. 

“The creation of a £100 million fund is to help those micro and SME businesses who face immediate cash flow challenges, are ineligible for other schemes and are the productive base for supporting employment in the future. It will also support those newly self-employed people who are also ineligible for UK schemes and will be a vital lifeline for many businesses and individuals across Scotland.

“With UK Government support not being available until June, we are going further to secure the future economic viability of Scottish firms and applications will be open by the end of the month.”

She added: “While many businesses are in difficulty, some are doing better than others or can pull through from their own resources. Just as we ask the public only to buy what they need in the supermarkets, we are asking businesses who do not need this vital help to refrain from claiming additional support unless absolutely necessary so we can direct as much help as possible to those who need it most.”

David Lonsdale

David Lonsdale, director, Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), commented: “The economic response to the coronavirus challenge is both broad and complex. Governments have to take bold and unprecedented steps to protect businesses who otherwise may not survive – but of course, there is a need to balance support to those who require it.

“Today’s announcement is clearly in that spirit, and retailers will be pleased the Finance Secretary has listened to our representations. Medium-sized Scottish non-food retail firms are amongst those most vulnerable to the consequences of lockdown and the collapse in footfall and spending. These businesses may operate from multiple sites, but each store is run on an individual basis and each store will need support in order to reopen when we move past this phase. 

“These grants, along with the generous but vital 100% business rates relief, are vital steps in ensuring when we eventually open our doors we can return to vibrant and successful high streets.”

Liz Cameron OBE, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “We raised directly with Scottish Ministers the gaping anomaly between the financial support available for businesses with more than one property in Scotland compared to businesses in the rest of the UK. Today’s announcement is a positive step in the right direction which will give much-needed financial relief to many small businesses.

“We are also pleased to hear the Scottish Government is providing support to newly self-employed people not eligible for other schemes. Questions still remain on the criteria and speed of delivery and Ministers must provide businesses with reassurance that cash support will be released quickly. The harsh reality of this situation means any delays in support is the difference between a business going under or surviving.”

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