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Covid in Scotland: 'I only found out about grants when it was too late'

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland News

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image captionJulie Harrison has been running her business for 13 years

A barber missed out on the chance to apply for a £10,000 government grant because she only found out about the scheme days after it closed.

Julie Harrison said she had been in the dark about the scheme because she had been busy caring for people who were shielding, including one of her elderly customers.

Ms Harrison said she was "devastated" at missing out on the small business grant scheme - and that firms should be contacted to be made aware of the funding on offer.

The Scottish government said it had closed the scheme because it was attracting few applicants.

Ms Harrison, 49, has been running Julie's Barbers for 13 years in Edinburgh's Comiston Road.

She said she only learned about the grant scheme when she returned to work on 15 July after the lockdown. A customer told her she was eligible - but had missed the deadline by three working days.

'Slipping through my fingers'

She said: "I was caring for three people who were shielding during the lockdown including an elderly customer, my mother and my partner so I did not have time to watch TV or navigate websites to find out about grants.

"I think it is very unfair of the Scottish government not to have written to small business owners to let them know about what they could apply for.

"I feel devastated because I have been working so hard on my business for so many years but now I feel it slipping through my fingers."

Ms Harrison said she averaged 25 customers a day before the lockdown, but now has just one or two a day.

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She said: "Some days I have no customers and my overheads to run the business are now higher than what I make in takings.

"I have so many bills but few customers and so the future of my business is looking uncertain."

She said that if she had received a £10,000 grant, it could have helped her avoid a "mortal blow" to her business.

Ms Harrison said she had written to the government several times, but had only received one "generic response".

'Few applicants'

She added: "There are a lot of people who don't know how to find out about grants and what they are eligible for.

"I think it is extremely unfair that they didn't notify us or reopen for grant applications when they discovered people like myself had been unaware about it.

"I have poured all my savings into keeping the business running but now that has dried up and I fear I could be hanging up my scissors for the last time any day now."

The government grant for small business originally had a deadline for applications of March 2021. However, that date was reviewed and it closed on 10 July.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The fund was closed to ensure funds do not sit for too long in schemes that are attracting few applications.

"That means any remaining money can be rerouted to support business where it is most required.

"We remain committed to ensuring every penny we receive from the UK government for business support - and more - will be passed on to businesses."

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