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Forbes: £25,000 grant will not match England and Wales deal

Nicole Bernard: ‘completely unreasonable’

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has told businesses that a £25,000 grant scheme to support them through the coronavirus will not match the offer made in England and Wales.

Businesses are campaigning for each property to be eligible for the grant, as applies south of the border.

Small businesses in England and Wales are receiving £25,000 for every qualifying property they have with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.

The Scottish Government initially announced it would be “replicating fully” that scheme. Ms Forbes and the Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing stated in parliament on 18 March that properties in Scotland would qualify. This was restated by the First Minister during a debate in Holyrood on Wednesday.

However, businesses have complained that when applying for the grant they are told it applies only to each business.

Daily Business requested a statement from the government on Monday and Ms Forbes has now confirmed that this is the policy because small firms already get support from the Scottish government. She added that “parity with other nations” could mean support being denied to other sectors and cause even greater hardship.

The Scottish Government is going to great lengths to support businesses

– Kate Forbes, Finance Secretary

In a letter to Tory MP Rachael Hamilton, Fergus Ewing confirms that the grant is based on each business not each property.

“One grant is available per property where the ratepayer has one property, and for those with multiple properties it is one grant per business,” he states.

Campaigners have refused to accept the government’s position and say they will continue to fight for parity with companies in the rest of the UK.

Mr Forbes said: “The Scottish Government is going to great lengths to support businesses and has offered a package of support worth £2.2 billion for businesses.

“Because there are more businesses eligible for the £10,000 grant in Scotland due to the more generous Small Business Bonus Scheme, and recognising the other business support available to cover wages, we have taken the decision to limit the £10,000 and £25,000 grants to one per business.

“This has allowed us to offer support to other important sectors, including creative industries, aviation and fishing, which are not receiving support elsewhere in the UK.

“As such, parity with other nations could require us to strip those sectors of support, which could arguably cause even greater hardship.

“The hospitality industry was the first to receive government support and has benefited from grants and rates relief, when some other badly-hit sectors have not.

“We continue to explore how best to support businesses during this unprecedented economic challenge and recently launched a helpline to provide businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19.”

Nicole Bernard, who owns The Wax Bar Group said shortfalls in COVID-19 business grant support in Scotland was increasing pressures on companies like hers.

It’s completely unreasonable when we are all doing our best to protect jobs

– Nicole Bernard, Wax Group

Mrs Bernard, together with Edinburgh coffee shop business owner Jon Sharp, launched an online petition on that demands equal support for jobs and businesses all over Scotland which are now at risk. The petition has already received almost 1000 signatures. 

Mrs Bernard said: “A business like mine has multiple properties in Scotland but under the current arrangements, I’ll only receive assistance with one of them. It’s completely unreasonable when we are all doing our best to protect jobs.

“We are facing huge financial stress at a time of uncertainty so we need the Scottish Government to work with us. Instead, I feel a little betrayed that all the support being offered in England and Wales is not being extended to Scottish businesses.”  

2 Comments to Forbes: £25,000 grant will not match England and Wales deal

  1. This crisis has hit pubs particularly hard. We have also started a petition within the hospitality trade in Edinburgh. Pub companies such as Iona Pub Partnership, which own a large number of licensed premises in Edinburgh, are trying to get the grants paid directly to them to cover the rent which they are so far refusing to cancel for the period of forced closure. We obviously want the grant to come to us so that we can use it to pay the 35 staff we have furloughed until the HMRC portal is up and running. The behaviour of the pubcos during this time of national crisis is despicable and threatens the very industry on which so many livelihoods are built.

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