McArthur calls for wider access to hardship fund

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur has today (Friday) called on the Scottish Government to allow more tourism businesses to access support under the Hardship Fund by dropping the requirement to have a business account.

The Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund was introduced by the government to help businesses who are not currently in receipt of business rates relief. However, the fund has been restricted to applicants who specifically use a business bank account, even though many small businesses in the tourism sector legitimately use separate personal accounts instead.

Mr McArthur has written to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to raise concerns that the requirement has led to many local small businesses, such as B&B owners, being unable to access the support they need. Orkney’s MSP highlighted the impact that excluding these businesses will have on the island’s economy and therefore urged Ms Forbes to consider widening the criteria further.

Mr McArthur commented:

“The hardship fund has already helped deliver much-need support to many small businesses in Orkney.

“However, businesses are still slipping through the net. Many B&B owners, for example, use separate personal accounts for the running of their business, often on the advice of their bank.

“To find that this now excludes them from accessing support is a real blow. It is almost as if they are not considered to be businesses at all, which is simply wrong.

“The First Minister was right to say that care must be taken to ensure public funds are not mis-used, but this requirement is excluding legitimate businesses altogether. I welcome Nicola Sturgeon’s confirmation that the issue is being looked into by the Finance Secretary, who has shown herself willing to make changes to the eligibility criteria in response to concerns raised. I hope she will be prepared to do so again in this instance.”

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