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Coronavirus / Plenty of cash went unused in Covid discretionary fund

JUST under £250,000 was distributed to Shetland businesses under a scheme for those who may have not been eligible for earlier Covid support funding – despite the Scottish Government offering more than £900,000.

Shetland Islands Council’s economic development service manager Tommy Coutts said that £248,000 was given out to 62 businesses through the Covid discretionary fund.

This was out of 115 applicants. The main reason for the refusals was that businesses had already received other government grants.

The discretionary fund, which is administered by local authorities, was established by the Scottish Government earlier this year, and locally there was a deadline for applications of 31 March.

It was designed to provide support for businesses which may have fallen through the cracks.

After the government upped the level of funding available for each council area in Scotland, Shetland was given an allocation of just over £912,000.

This was despite the maximum grant being set at £4,000.

Coutts said he felt the amount of unused funding in Shetland was partly down to the size of the allocation, and the demand.

“I think the demand on the fund that we got wasn’t as high as we thought it might be,” he said.

“An awful lot of our applications that came in had actually accessed Scottish Government money from other sources and weren’t eligible for the fund.”

He added that between it being announced and its launch, there were a lot of other funds announced, in areas like outdoor tourism and small accommodation.

The businesses that did access the discretionary funding were a “total mixture”, Coutts said.

Meanwhile the main Covid business support schemes have come to an end.

With local authorities administering the schemes, Coutts said there has been a “considerable amount of work” involved.

But he said it was a very worthwhile initiative for local businesses who have may been struggling.