More than 20,000 Scottish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are to benefit from a £60 million investment which includes £24.4 million of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) money, the Scottish Government said.

The investment also includes money from local “Business Gateways,” Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy Keith Brown said: “The investment will benefit more than 20,000 enterprises, with the aim of identifying and developing our next 1,000 growth businesses.

“Business Gateway support alone is forecast to create 11,000 jobs.

“This investment shows exactly why the best way to guarantee jobs, investment, services and projects across the country, is by maintaining Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

“Membership delivers many social, economic and cultural benefits for individuals, businesses and communities so maintaining our EU membership is a top priority.

“Collaboration has been so important in bringing this funding together and I applaud the hard work from the Scottish Local Authority Economic Development Network, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and numerous local authorities.”

Councillor Stephen Hagan, spokesperson for development, economy and sustainability at local authority group COSLA said: “This additional funding will be a huge boost to Scotland’s SME community and will allow us to build on a successful year that saw Business Gateway and its partners provide strategic support to thousands of growth businesses throughout Scotland.

“During 2015/16 the Business Gateway website saw unprecedented numbers of businesses access advice and information, and our network of advisers across the country provided additional adviser time to 9000 growth businesses to help them take their ventures to a new level.

“It is extremely important that we keep this momentum going in the coming months and years and there is no doubt this additional funding will play a key role in making this happen.

“As local authorities delivering the Business Gateway service continue to develop support for businesses, we will look to work ever more closely with our partners, including Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and others, to ensure that businesses have access to a support package that meets their individual needs, wherever they are based.

“Through a combination of specialist adviser support, strategic seminars and masterclasses, and other business services, we will look to support 18,000 businesses as they look to achieve their growth ambitions, helping to generate over 11,000 new jobs.”