Emergency Scottish economy support not reaching firms

Fewer than one in four emergency business funds to help industry in Scotland weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic have been launched, it has emerged.

Some funds will not be operational until February or March, according to a document from local government body Cosla, which has been obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.

It shows that just £6 million of new funding announced since late October has reached businesses.

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And there are now question marks about whether any of the £185 million announced on December 9 has been delivered. It is unclear how much of the £30 million in discretionary fund announced on October 21 has been paid out.

Pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket have been forced to close down
Pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket have been forced to close down

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Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “These inexcusable delays are fuelling growing fury from businesses that so many SNP funds are failing to deliver any cash at all.

"The Scottish Conservatives have put forward proposals to break the ‘administrative logjam’ and get funding to businesses now.

“A ten-day turnaround guarantee and expanding the grants available would be a welcome first-step towards restoring business confidence, which has hit rock bottom, according to figures released today by the Federation of Small Businesses.

“Jobs will be lost and businesses forced to close because the SNP couldn’t get cash out the door quickly enough.”

Among the funds which have yet to administer cash are the hospitality top-up grant, and specific funds for tour operators and visitor attractions. There is also no sign of data for the Wedding Sector Support Fund or the Grassroots Music Venue Stabilisation Fund.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland and Scottish Hospitality Group have been among those to criticise the roll-out of funds and called for an end to the "administrative logjam" preventing money reaching businesses, as many firms across the country fight for survival.

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have prioritised the largest business support programmes to help as many businesses as possible as quickly as possible. Nearly £600 million of the £715 million we have allocated for business support since October is already live.

“When we announced £185 million additional funding last month we were absolutely clear that this funding would be available to businesses in January – that it still the case. Funding for taxi drivers, retail, brewers, the wedding sector, culture organisations and others will be available this month.

“We recognise that those businesses are waiting for funding that they desperately need and we are working with local authorities and other partners to accelerate delivery. They would wait forever elsewhere in the UK because such targeted funding simply isn’t always available.”

The Tories have called for a ten-working day national standard to be implemented for new business grant applications to be processed and a decision made. They say this would give a benchmark to assess council performance

The party also want to see more support offered to councils, which are struggling to manage the grants payments system, through funding and expertise that would leave them better able to process applicants and meet the national standard.

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