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New package of measures announced to help businesses during pandemic

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.
MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.

The Scottish Government has announced another £220 million is to be made available for businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

Political opponents are describing the move as a u-turn after economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said businesses would only get the £25,000 grant for one property.

That caused consternation in the business community because in England the offer would extend to all properties to help them deal with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

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

A further £100 million fund is also being made available to protect self-employed people and viable micro and small to medium enterprises in distress due to Covid-19 which will be channelled through local authorities and enterprise agencies.

It will target newly self-employed people and businesses who are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK government schemes with applications to be open by the end of the month while the new arrangements for Small Business Grants will be in place by May 5.

Highland Conservative MSPJamie Halcro Johnston said: “In the face of strong pressure from businesses across Scotland and from my Conservative colleagues, the Scottish Government has finally been forced to see sense.

“While this still doesn’t provide the same levels of support as is available to businesses south of the border, the Scottish Government’s belated u-turn is welcome nonetheless.

“What is so frustrating is that there was a ready-made UK model available but Scottish ministers chose to diverge for no good reason.

“This meant delays which have caused unnecessary uncertainty and concern to businesses across the Highlands and Islands.”

While Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “These changes should have been made sooner, and that would have spared a significant amount of anxiety across Scotland’s small business community, among owners and their employees.

“We’ve always argued that if the SNP takes a divergent approach from the rest of the UK, it has to show why this is of benefit for Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t able to do so in this case, and I’m glad she’s finally realised her mistakes in this critical issue.”

Finance secretary and fellow Highland MSP Kate Forbes said: “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.”

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