Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Friday) repeated calls for the Scottish Government to ensure that more businesses are able to access urgent financial support during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Currently, only businesses that pay non-domestic rates are eligible to apply for financial assistance through the Small Business Grant Scheme. This prompted Mr McArthur to write to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to urge her to reconsider the criteria so that businesses operating from domestic premises or not registered for business rates could also become eligible.
During a Members’ Virtual Question Time, Mr McArthur once again highlighted to the Finance Secretary the range of businesses in Orkney unable to access support as a result of the grant scheme restrictions and urged her to provide assurances that they ‘will not be left high and dry’.
In response, Ms Forbes recognised Mr McArthur for the work he has already done to ensure more businesses are eligible for essential support, including those operating from multiple premises, and pointed to further funding being made available for businesses who have not qualified for other grant schemes so far, particularly those in the tourism sector.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
“The overall level of support being offered to businesses in response to this unprecedented crisis is of course very welcome. Gaps remain, however, and more needs to be done to ensure these are filled, as far as possible.
“Earlier this week, the Finance Secretary helpfully agreed to enable businesses with multiple premises to make more than one application for support. More disappointingly, however, those who operate from domestic premises or not registered for business rates still appear to be excluded. I know from the correspondence I have received over recent weeks that this covers a great many small businesses in Orkney.
“Like other businesses, they desperately need funding to help manage their day to day costs and address cash flow problems resulting from the nationwide lockdown. Without that support, many will go under over the coming weeks and months.
“That is why I raised the issue with the Finance Secretary at a ‘virtual’ Question Time with Ministers this afternoon. Kate Forbes acknowledged the issue and expressed the hope that funding announced this week may provide some of the help required. More detail around the eligibility criteria for this funding is expected next week.
“Ms Forbes deserves credit for having listened and responded to earlier calls for changes to the various support schemes. Given the plight facing many local businesses that continue to fall between the gaps, I hope she will continue to listen and respond positively”.