Covid in Scotland: New support grants for taxis, tourism and weddings

  • Published
  • comments
Related Topics
Taxis in George SquareImage source, Getty Images

Taxi drivers, tourism firms and the wedding sector in Scotland have been targeted in the latest round of support for businesses affected by Covid-19.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said a further £185m of funding was being directed to "those who need it most".

It includes grant schemes for pubs and restaurants, music venues, indoor football centres and brewers.

There is also a £19m fund for taxi drivers and £15m for mobile contact services such as hairdressers.

The government has been accused of not allocating funding or getting it out to businesses quickly enough.

And the Scottish Hospitality Group has claimed pubs and restaurants in Scotland have received lower levels of support than in other parts of the UK.

Ms Forbes told BBC Scotland that many businesses in other parts of the UK, like Wales, had been "fully closed" for longer because of national lockdowns, so it was not comparing "like with like".

In a statement at Holyrood, Ms Forbes set out the details of a further £185m directed at firms - including £60m for the tourism sector.

This came after she set out the government's latest spending allocations in a letter to Holyrood's finance committee, including £600m for health and social care and £570m of business support.

The cash comes from the latest tranche of £8.2bn received from the UK Treasury since the crisis began.

The latest package also includes:

  • £15m for the wedding sector and its supply chain
  • £15m in one-off grants for mobile contact services such as hairdressers
  • £19m in grants for taxi drivers
  • £5m for travel agents
  • £1.5m for visitor attractions

More detail is to be announced in the coming days, with applications for the new grant schemes to open in January.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Kate Forbes told MSPs the government had "listened to businesses"

Ms Forbes told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme she was setting out a "very comprehensive package" of additional funding for hospitality, accommodation providers and the wedding sector.

She said: "What we're doing is taking a very targeted approach to specific sectors that have been hard hit, which will complement and be over and above the recurring grants that businesses can get, depending on how long they are in lockdown."

The minister told MSPs that the government "listened to businesses" and targeted funding "at those who need it most".

The move was welcomed by many business groups, but also prompted questions about how quickly funds would be delivered.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance said the cash was "very much welcomed", while the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association said they were "delighted".

Andrew McRae, Scottish policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the funds "close some of the most yawning gaps in coronavirus business support" and "help many smaller firms who were forgotten during previous initiatives".

However he added: "We're now left with a myriad of schemes at various stages of delivery, with much of the cash unlikely to reach firms until the new year. In future we need to see policymakers in Edinburgh deliver help for local businesses at the same pace as they implement restrictions on the economy."

'Cold comfort'

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the funding was "welcome", but would be "cold comfort to many businesses who have so little cash left they have only weeks to survive".

Chief executive Dr Liz Cameron said: "For many, January will be too late to save business owners, their families and their employees from economic ruin. This should be the top priority for all organisations who are going to be involved in supporting businesses."

The Scottish Conservatives - who led a debate on the economy at Holyrood later in the afternoon - said the cash was "too little, too late".

Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said firms "have their backs up against the wall and need access to the additional grants right now - they can't wait until January with countless jobs and livelihoods on the line".

The party wants the government to introduce a week's "implementation period" for changes to local virus alert levels to give businesses time to prepare, and to give firms a "seat at the table in decisions".

Labour's Jackie Baillie also questioned whether the funding was being delivered quickly enough, saying firms were "having to wait until January to get support when many of them are going to the wall".

However Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie welcomed the funding, saying that the move "shows how listening carefully to businesses and working constructively with government ministers delivered results".