Coronavirus: business grants must be paid faster, say trade groups

Relief payments have been made to 18,528 businesses so far, according to Scottish Government

TRADE groups say time is critical for operators who have not yet received “lifeline” business grants and that more must be done to make payments faster, after figures from the Scottish Government showed grants have so far been paid to a third of the businesses that applied.

The figures, released on Friday (April 17), show that 59,385 applications for the Coronavirus Small Business Grant scheme had been made by April 14, with 18,528 businesses having received payments.

The scheme offers funds in the form of a £10,000 grant for those receiving the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief and a £25,000 grant for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector for rateable values (RVs) between £18,001 and £50,999. As reported in SLTN the scheme has come under fire for excluding businesses with RVs over £50,999; and for offering a 100% grant on a first property and 75% grant on any subsequent premises, compared to England, where a 100% grant on each property is available.

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said that despite the government’s efforts to make funding available to businesses, there are still thousands of people with nothing.

“The grants are lifelines for businesses and, for us, it’s one thing telling us the numbers that have been issued but it still leaves nearly 41,000 businesses that haven’t had their applications okayed and the money in the bank,” he said.

“I know of people in Edinburgh, Fife and parts of Glasgow who haven’t received anything yet so there are still thousands of people without. Councils already have the details they need from businesses – including their rateable values and bank details – yet we still have to go through this application process which isn’t quick enough.

“We were the first to congratulate the Scottish Government on the scheme because nobody expected that level of support at the time but it’s the time getting the money out to people on time that’s the problem.”

This message was echoed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, which said it welcomed the progress made so far but urged councils and government to deliver the grants more quickly.

The group’s policy chair for Scotland, Andrew McRae, said: “This grant funding could be the difference between success and failure for many smaller firms during the coronavirus crisis. And for that reason, we’re grateful for the funds that have been delivered to businesses already. But we’d urge everyone involved in the delivery of this crucial support to do everything possible to process the applications and deliver the cash more quickly.”