South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has branded aspects of a new Bed and Breakfast Hardship Scheme “deeply unfair” and called on the Scottish Government to make changes to ensure more businesses are able to access funds.
As it stands, the scheme – which pays out a one off grant of £3,000 – requires claimants to have not received any other Government support during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, this has meant a significant number of B&Bs are not eligible for the scheme.
For many months before this scheme was set up, B&B owners were under the impression they were not eligible for any support, particularly those who did not have business bank accounts which was a restriction placed on existing schemes. Those owners were advised to apply for Universal Credit or the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. However, as a result, many businesses are now barred from accessing the new Hardship Scheme.
Colin Smyth has written to Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture Fiona Hyslop to demand this restriction is removed, after being contacted by a large number of constituents concerned about their financial future.
Colin Smyth said: “We have a huge number of B&Bs in the south of Scotland and a significant number have contacted me about their concerns that they are banned from receiving money from the B&B Hardship Fund because they have previously claimed other Government support. That support can be a little as a few pounds a week of Universal Credit – far short of the £3,000 grants this scheme pays out.
“This seems deeply unfair to me; particularly given the length of time it has taken to establish a fund for these businesses. Those who needed financial support most urgently had no option but to apply for other sources, and as a result it is those most in need who will be excluded from this scheme.
“For many months before this scheme was set up, B&B owners have been under the impression that they are not eligible for any business support schemes and advised to apply for Universal Credit or the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
“However, as a result of following this advice many businesses are now being barred from accessing the new Hardship Fund.
“Many of these businesses would have automatically been eligible for sizeable grants if they paid Business Rates rather than Council Tax, regardless of what other support schemes they applied for.
“They have already faced a huge amount of uncertainty and disappointment during this period, and should not be forced to meet a higher criteria for support now.
“I have written to Fiona Hyslop to demand she remove this criteria and allow B&B owners the chance to claim through this fund. It would throw them a vital life line during a completely unprecedented time.”