Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) secured confirmation from the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes that island businesses will have access to the same ongoing support as businesses elsewhere in Scotland.
After earlier representations made by Mr McArthur, the First Minister announced on Tuesday that ‘top up’ funding would be provided to allow businesses in level three areas access to the same support being provided to those in level four areas under the Strategic Framework Business Fund.
However, concerns were then raised by accommodation providers in Orkney that they were to be excluded, despite being impacted every bit as much as similar businesses on the Scottish mainland.
Mr McArthur highlighted these concerns during Finance Questions and asked Ms Forbes to clarify whether or not island councils will be free to use the top up funding to support any businesses, including accommodation providers, to provide parity with support available in the rest of the country.
In response, Ms Forbes confirmed that the ‘top up’ announced by the First Minister would ensure “businesses in island communities receive the same support, on the same level, as those in Level 4 areas”.
Afterwards, Mr McArthur commented:
“While the announcement earlier this week of a ‘top up’ fund for island authorities was welcome, it soon became apparent that many businesses, including accommodation providers, were at risk of being excluded.
“That was unacceptable and out of step with the assurances I received from the Finance Secretary last week. I’m pleased Kate Forbes has now set the record straight in a response to me at Finance Questions by confirming that island businesses will have access to the same ongoing funding as those in Level 4 areas.
“This support may be delivered through a Discretionary Fund rather than the Strategic Framework Business Fund, but Ms Forbes could not have been clearer that the effect should be the same.
“Hopefully, Orkney Islands Council is now able to put a process in place to allow businesses to begin applying for the support they so desperately need.
Mr McArthur added:
“The Finance Secretary also helpfully clarified that the ‘top up’ support is over and above what can be accessed through the sector-specific funds, announced at the end of last year.
“Details for most of the sector specific funds have not yet been published, but are expected later this month. Ms Forbes insisted that these are open to businesses across Scotland, including the islands”.