A U-turn by the Scottish Government in the level of support given to businesses will still leave many facing closure without extra help, warns South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The local MSP has been urging the Scottish Government to change its decision to give out grants on a one per business basis, rather than one per property as elsewhere in the UK.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced today (15 April) that small businesses that have more than one property will now be eligible for a 75 per cent grant on all subsequent properties. This still falls short of England and Wales were 100 per cent of the grant is available for subsequent properties.

The Scottish Government also announced £100m of funding for self-employed people and firms that are not currently covered by the UK Government support scheme. The funding will go to local councils and agencies to allocate but it remains unclear what the criteria will be and how much will be allocated to each area.

However, Colin Smyth fears it won’t be enough to stop many local businesses going to the wall given the number of gaps in existing support the extra funding would have to cover including:

·         A lack of support for small businesses such as guest houses and B&Bs, who pay Council Tax rather than business rates

·         Questions exist about why self-caterers in Scotland are required to meet a higher threshold to access support than other businesses and self-caterers in England.

·         Those self-employed people who have been self-employed for less than year not being eligible for support.

·         Directors of small businesses without registered premises are not technically self-employed as they pay themselves through their business, but also are not eligible for business support distributed on the basis of rates.

Colin Smyth said: “The U-turn is a step in the right direction as so many businesses were facing the real prospect of financial ruin due to the Scottish Government’s previous insistence in offering grants for only one premises.

“However, it is clear that the financial support on offer to businesses of more than one property in Scotland is still below the level of support on offer elsewhere in the UK.

“Other significant gaps in support for business from the Scottish and UK Government also remain. That’s why I’m continuing to call on the UK and Scottish Governments, local councils and our newly formed enterprise agency to come together and to tackle those gaps because many local businesses still face closure without extra help.

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