Coronavirus: Trade group challenges decision to not extend support to larger businesses

Wave of redundancies expected from “backbone” of Scotland’s tourism economy

THE Scottish Licensed Trade Association has described the decision not to extend financial support to businesses over the £51,000 rateable value threshold as “appalling” and is calling on the Scottish Government to source further funding from the Treasury to enable those businesses to survive beyond the COVID-19 shutdown.

A letter to Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes, signed by the trade group’s president Stephen Montgomery, said last week’s announcement by economy secretary Fiona Hyslop that the grant scheme would not be extended to larger businesses “has only further incensed those business owners” who have struggled to make headway with the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund – a one-off payment of £2000 for the newly self-employed who are ineligible for UK support – and the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund –  a grant scheme for businesses which are deemed vital to Scotland’s local or national economy but have been made vulnerable by the crisis. It also said the group now expects to see a wave of businesses “starting consultation processes for redundancies” from June 1.

The letter also urges the Scottish Government to provide information on the levels of funding already allocated to businesses during the shutdown and what money remains in the pot for businesses to receive and a breakdown of the amount of support already allocated to each business sector.

The full letter from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association is below:

Dear cabinet secretary,

This week’s announcement by the cabinet secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to extend the eligibility of the current small business retail, hospitality and leisure grant to businesses that occupy multiple premises with a cumulative value greater than £51k, has only further incensed those business owners with premises above the £51k threshold, the plight of which is being continually ignored by the Scottish Government.

These very businesses have to date seen absolutely no direct grant funding being given and the support which has been put in place, through Hardship and Pivotal Grants, has been difficult to access, complex in provision of information required and few of our members have reported successful applications.

Many of these businesses are already closing their doors and, in our opinion, the ongoing lack of meaningful direct support grants for these businesses by the Scottish Government is appalling to say the least.

The industry is now expecting a domino effect to gain pace on failing businesses and from June 1 we expect to see many businesses starting consultation processes for redundancies.

There is an immediate need to either obtain further funding or divert some of the current funding to those who have in our sector received nothing, but will be the backbone of the Scottish tourism economy and its recovery, if these businesses survive.

With the Scottish Government largely dependent on funding from Westminster, it is therefore your responsibility, as the Scottish Government finance minister, to source further funding from the Treasury and allocate it to these businesses for their survival and also to protect those employed therein. This must be successfully achieved now.

As a matter of urgency, we also ask that you provide information on the amount of funding already granted, unclaimed and still available from all the various COVID-19 funding sources and a breakdown on the amount of grants already allocated to each business sector.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Montgomery