Sturgeon and Ross clash
Battle rages over support for Scottish firms
Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Businesses in Scotland should get the same treatment’
Businesses face a prolonged battle for survival as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed that the money to support them will run out unless Westminster comes up with a solution.
Ms Sturgeon, unveiling a new five-level shutdown system, (see more below) repeated her frustration that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new measures will provide financial backing for companies in England, but gave no assurances to Scotland.
She said she was determined to ensure that Scottish businesses would get the same support, but did not have the resources available to the UK government.
Without borrowing powers of its own or new funding from Westminster the budget would not stretch to supporting Scotland’s businesses ‘indefinitely’.
Stephen Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, earlier said Scotland would benefit through Barnet consequentials, but gave no details. Westminster has pointed out that Scotland recently received £700m of extra funding.
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross criticised the SNP’s constant attempts to provoke a fight with Mr Sunak over funding and also pointed to the £700m of extra funding.
Douglas Ross: businesses are being cheated by SNP
Mr Ross also accused the SNP of “cheating” businesses that have already been severely impacted by local restrictions, such as those in Aberdeen. He said they had been denied as much as £2,000 each in back payments.
“It’s not on that they’re being cheated out of £2,000 that businesses south of the border are receiving,” he said.
“Scottish companies are fed up hearing about manufactured grievances. They don’t want another pre-fab SNP fight with Rishi Sunak and the UK Government. They need funding, now.
“In the past few weeks, Rishi Sunak has made a further £700 million of support available. The funding is there to protect Scottish jobs and support businesses.
The Scottish government issued details of grants now available to businesses as part of Scotland’s refreshed strategic approach to suppressing coronavirus (COVID-19).
From 2 November, firms that are required by law to close will be eligible for grants every four weeks for as long as the restrictions last. Based on rateable values, awards will be for either £2,000 or £3,000.
Businesses which can remain open, but are directly constrained by the measures, will be eligible for grants worth £1,400 or £2,100, again based on rateable value.
This support is in addition to the UK Government’s revised furlough scheme launching on 1 November.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These are uncertain times for business and many will be concerned that the action necessary to protect public health will have a severe effect on their bottom line.
“We are determined to support businesses during this period and we will continue to listen to and engage with business leaders about the draft framework published today.
She called for the Scottish Parliament to be given additional fiscal powers to help address the challenges facing Scotland’s economy.
“We will make financial support available as levels are reviewed across the country and restrictions applied locally. We will continue to work with local authorities to ensure grants are made available quickly and efficiently.
“The support that we are providing is the maximum we can afford under our current powers and the resources available. We have matched the level of support available in England for larger businesses and our grants are more generous to smaller businesses.
“The Chancellor has written a blank cheque for business support grants in England and he must urgently commit to providing Scotland with the funding needed to help our businesses weather this pandemic.”
The new Levels
Business demands closer consultation
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said firms want guarantees that changes in tier status are “communicated clearly, in good time and involve genuine consultation with business”.
She added: “The Scottish Government must show its workings and evidence base, including outlining trigger points, for new restrictions – particularly any proposals to move areas into tier four.
“No more pubs, cafés or shops should be forced to close at short notice or manufacturers asked to down tools with essential orders unfulfilled.
“At all levels, support must be made available from the moment any restrictions come into force, have a clear point of contact and be commensurate with their impact. Anything less and even more businesses crucial to our recovery will go to the wall, with further job losses inevitable.
A similar message came from Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce who said: “We cannot stress enough how essential it is that businesses have as much clarity on restrictions on trading as is possible.
“So we welcome this new strategic framework which gives businesses an opportunity to begin re-opening the economy. The Scottish Government must continue publishing evidence-led data alongside restrictions.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Ee welcome an approach based on consultation and avoiding the slapdash and frankly incoherent approach seen in Wales this week to implementing their own further restrictions.”
Any attempt to close non-essential stores during the golden Christmas shopping quarter may mean many are unable to reopen– David Lonsdale, SRC
He noted that the upper tier, Level 4, includes the potential closure of ‘non-essential shops’ and warned that this could prove the last straw for many.
“However, we believe any move to close non-essential retailers will have only a very minimal impact on reducing the spread of the virus whilst carrying very significant economic harms.
“Retail has demonstrated that it can operate safely in the current environment and it is notable that there was no spike in infections following the lifting of lockdown on non-essential shops at the end of June.
“Scottish retailers have invested tens of millions of pounds to make stores safe and secure for customers, including perspex screens, social distancing and additional hygiene measures. As such, shops remains a safe space for customers and staff.
“Scottish stores lost £2.4 billion of retail sales over the first seven months of the pandemic and have yet to claw their way back to pre-crisis levels.
“Any attempt to close non-essential stores during the golden Christmas shopping quarter may mean many are unable to reopen, having missed out on this vital trading period.”