Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) pressed the Scottish Government for a guarantee that accommodation providers who were initially excluded from earlier funding schemes will not encounter the same problems in future.
Under the recent government hardship fund, accommodation providers that operate with a personal, rather than a business, bank account were not entitled to support.
During Portfolio Questions, Mr McArthur pressed the Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing for a guarantee that self-catering and B&B businesses that have found themselves excluded for this reason in the past will get access to support under any future schemes.
In response, Mr Ewing explained that the business bank account requirement was to safeguard again the risk of fraud. However, he agreed that the requirement on its own shouldn’t prevent legitimate businesses, such as B&Bs and self-catering, from receiving support and that he was looking sympathetically at the issue.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:
“During the initial lockdown, many local B&Bs and self-catering businesses in Orkney found themselves frozen out of grant support because they operate personal rather than business bank accounts. While Ministers eventually agreed to widen the criteria to allow these businesses to apply, it came after weeks of stress and uncertainty during what was already an incredibly challenging time.
“With restrictions tightening again in many places, I have been contacted by a number of constituents concerned to ensure that lessons have been learned in the shaping of future grant schemes.
“While the Scottish Government must take care to reduce the risk of fraud, it is important that this single requirement of having a business bank account is not used to stop support getting to those legitimate businesses it is intended to help.
“It is clear that tourism businesses face difficult months ahead. They need reassurance that the support will be there when they need it. So I welcome the Tourism Secretary’s acknowledgment of these concerns and his willingness to ensure they are taken on board.”