Coronavirus: Smaller businesses call for more support

By Douglas Fraser
Business and economy editor, Scotland

  • Published
KilderkinImage source, Google
Image caption,
The issue has been raised, with a petition, by Kilderkin pub chain

The Scottish government has defended its small business grant scheme after criticism that is less generous than the offer in England.

Ministers said their choice allows for more generous business rates relief targeted at sectors hardest hit.

In Scotland those applying for grants of £10,000 or £25,000 cannot get one for each outlet of a business, for example, where there is a retail chain.

Instead they are being limited to one grant per firm.

The issue has been raised, with a petition, by two multi-outlet firms in Edinburgh, Kilimanjaro Coffee and Kilderkin pub chain.

Directors of the companies want to extend the scheme to be like the English system, where each property in a retail chain can be eligible for a grant.

However, other industries like aviation - including airports and ground handling firms - are seeing a business rates holiday for the 2020-21 financial year, alongside retail, leisure and hospitality.

A new Scotland-only package of support was announced for seafood processors on Friday, following one for fishing businesses and another for the creative industry.

'Great lengths' to support business

In response to the criticism, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: "The Scottish government is going to great lengths to support businesses and has offered a package of support worth £2.2bn."

She said the £10,000 grants are more widely available in Scotland than in England because a higher proportion of firms fall beneath the qualifying threshold for paying business rates, and that firms also benefit from job retention funds.

For that reason, ministers had taken the decision to limit the £10,000 and £25,000 grants to one per business, she said.

"This allows us to offer support to other important sectors, including creative industries, aviation and fishing, which are not receiving support elsewhere in the UK.

"Parity with other nations could require us to strip those sectors of support, which could arguably cause even greater hardship."