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Business / FSB highlights ‘cracks’ in the coronavirus business support schemes

Many small businesses living on ‘borrowed time’

THE FEDERATION of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently fill the gaps in its coronavirus support schemes to prevent many smaller businesses from going under.

In a letter to ministers, the organisation argues for new help for operators who are either excluded from existing support mechanisms or who believe the help they’ve been offered is insufficient.

But finance secretary Kate Forbes, defending the Scottish Government’s £2.2 billion coronavirus support package, said the help for small businesses is the most generous in the UK.

The FSB highlighted that home-based and vehicle-based firms that don’t operate from rateable premises are currently excluded from the Scottish coronavirus grant programme; and that newly self-employed people do not benefit from the UK Government’s help.

Companies working from serviced office space are also losing out on the vital support.

The FSB's Highlands and Islands manager David Richardson.The FSB’s Highlands and Islands manager David Richardson.

The FSB letter comes on the same time Shetland Islands Council confirmed they had already approved £1.8 million of funding from two Scottish Government business support schemes.

The FSB’s Highlands & Islands development manager David Richardson said the whole region was particularly vulnerable to the ongoing crisis.

“The current crisis has brought the highly complex nature of Scotland’s economy and the major differences between regions into sharp focus,” he said.

“It is imperative that we pull out all the stops now to ensure that our economy remains strong after the crisis passes.

“As the voice of smaller businesses, the FSB is doing just that, ensuring that the experiences of our Highlands & Islands members are heard by politicians and policy-makers in Holyrood and beyond, and ensuring that as many of the cracks in the business support system are filled as possible.”

Forbes said on Wednesday that limiting grant funding to just one business per person had allowed the Scottish Government to also offer support to other sectors such as aviation and fishing.

Finance secretary unveiling the Scottish budget in February this year.

She added: “The Small Business Bonus Scheme, which is the most generous in the UK, offers relief for properties with rateable values of up to £18,000.

“This means that a property which is not in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors with a rateable value between £15,000 and £18,000 would receive nothing in England but is eligible for the £10,000 grant in Scotland.”

Referring to the fact that many smaller businesses feel unfairly treated in the distribution of support designed to combat the economic consequences of the crisis, she said a new helpline had been launched.

“We continue to explore how best to support businesses during this unprecedented economic challenge and recently launched a helpline to provide businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on Covid-19,” she said.

The FSB’s Scotland policy chairman Andrew McRae reminded the government that many businesses were living on “borrowed time”.

“And that’s why political decision-makers have rightly focussed on getting support programmes established for the greatest number of individuals and enterprises.

“But as the dust settles, it is clear that there are some in business not getting any help at all. And there are others for whom the help looks insufficient.”

The Scottish Government’s helpline for businesses is: 0300 303 0660.