Further £220m to help Scots firms amid pandemic

The Scottish Government said on Wednesday that around £220 million of further grants are being made available for businesses, including the recently self-employed, to help them deal with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The move follows representations from business groups including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

“The new package of measures includes £120 million to extend the Small Business Grant scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, small business rate payers will be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties,” said the Scottish Government.

“A further £100 million fund is also being made available to protect self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses in distress due to COVID. 

“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 £100 million 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 May 5.

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.

“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.”

The FSB’s director of devolved nations Colin Borland said: “This new Scottish Government package should plug some of the most obvious and dangerous gaps in coronavirus support for smaller firms and the self-employed.

“For those that were due to receive nothing – like the new self-employed and some home-based and vehicle firms – this new help could be a lifeline.

“For others – like smaller chains – it could provide a critical top up to the money already in the pipeline.

“This help looks more flexible than previous schemes, and Ministers in Edinburgh deserve credit for adjusting the help on offer following feedback from firms and the FSB.

“We’ll need to see the swift deployment of this cash.

“And this looks unlikely to be the end of the story.

“If we want as many firms as possible to make it through this crisis, then governments north and south of the border may be required to provide additional rounds of help.”

Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said: “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 a 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.”