Schools face FIVE months break...

Scots businesses handed £1.9bn boost to fight virus

Fiona Hyslop speaking

Fiona Hyslop: warned that economy faced collapse

Scottish businesses will be supported by a £1.9 billion pot from the UK Government to help them tackle the deadly coronavirus outbreak, while schools will close for up to five months.

The Scottish Government is delaying the introduction of the deposit return scheme and the tourist tax to ease pressure on businesses.

It has also confirmed there will be no second independence referendum this year as efforts are focused on tackling the coronavirus.

In a letter to the UK Government, Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said ministers had halted work on the plans as a result of the pandemic. Plans to ask the Electoral Commission to test a possible referendum question had also been shelved.

The latest injection of cash takes the total of support for the Scottish Government from the UK Government to £2.7 billion.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop told MSPs that as a result of coronavirus, the Scottish economy is facing “an immediate collapse in demand”.

She outlined the actions being taken by the Scottish Government to support businesses including a package of measures from 1 April:

  • a full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism
  • £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief
  • £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000
  • 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year
  • First Minister to convene an emergency meeting of the Financial Services Advisory Board
  • urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways
  • extending the go live date for the deposit return scheme to July 2022
  • halting the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill

Ms Hyslop said: “The overall economic impact is clearly likely to be significant, though the scale and duration of the impact are difficult to predict.

The Scottish Government will pass all consequentials to businesses

– Fiona Hyslop, Economy Secretary

“Depressed economic activity this year will have implications for the public finances through lower tax receipts and higher welfare spending.

“This will have severe economic consequences and we are treating it as an economic emergency, triggered by the enormity of the health emergency.

“I welcome the further support announced by the Chancellor and the Scottish Government will pass all consequentials to businesses to help them through this challenging period.

“We have already confirmed our intention to effectively the freeze the poundage rate next year and I can confirm that we will mirror those measures with a package of reliefs and grants worth £2.2 billion.”

There will be 12 months of full relief from business rates for retailers and hospitality. 

The deal adds to the Chancellor’s announcement of three-month mortgage holidays, funding for research and extended Statutory Sick Pay. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also announced further help for renters.

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