FSB's plea to Holyrood
Brexit resilience fund is ‘vital’ for Scottish businesses
Andrew McRae has called on the Scottish Government to provide money to help firms adapt to the UK leaving the EU
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged the Scottish Government to set aside £75 million to help firms adapt to the UK leaving the European Union.
Ahead of the draft Scottish Budget being unveiled on 12 December, the FSB has urged Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to establish a new Brexit resilience fund.
In a letter to ministers, the small business campaign group also calls for further reforms of the business rates system, as well as action to boost town centres and high streets.
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “Our research shows that only a minority of Scottish businesses have started to prepare for Brexit. While few would blame firms when they still don’t know exactly what they’re preparing for, we can’t see good businesses overwhelmed by a rapidly-changing trading environment.
“Earlier this year, the Welsh Government announced a £50m EU Transition Fund. We’ve been impressed by Scotland’s economic agencies’ response so far, but after 29 March the work is really going to need to ramp up. At this budget the Finance Secretary needs to put aside funds to help businesses – across all sectors and geographies – adapt.”
FSB’s submission also details a request for the development of a £100m. new town centre diversification fund, which would be used to upgrade high street properties and infrastructure.
Mr McRae added: “The high street is known as the home of independent retail. But if we’re to turn around some of our town centres, we need to make them attractive to the next-generation of businesses.
“We want the Scottish Government to build on the success of its town centre regeneration fund with a new high street diversification programme.”
The business membership group also lays out proposals for additional changes to the Scottish rates system – including a new taper on the Scottish Government’s small business rates relief scheme, to smooth out financial shocks to businesses who suddenly find themselves outside the scheme’s scope. The FSB also calls for cash to help with modernising the administration of the tax.
“Following the Barclay review of business rates, the Scottish Government has developed a bold action plan to modernise this outmoded property tax,” said Mr McRae.
“Ministers must assign appropriate funding to make this change happen.
“Further, we’re making the case to ministers for a tweak to their landmark Small Business Bonus scheme so that businesses outside the scope of full relief get extra help. This simple move could reduce the total volume of rates appeals, relieving pressure on the wider tax system.”
Royal Bank of Scotland has launched a digital platform which will be available to business and commercial customers allowing them to apply online for secured and unsecured loans of up to £750,000 – the largest digitally available loans in the industry.
The new platform, available to all business and commercial banking customers who use online banking, will allow applicants to complete the process in a matter of minutes, with a decision being communicated to customers usually within 24 hours, sometimes immediately.