Time wasting claim
Digital grant shortfall leaves small firms fuming
Kate Forbes: encouraged firms to take up ‘valuable opportunity’ (pic: Terry Murden)
A small business director has accused the Scottish government of wasting the time of thousands of businesses by under-estimating the number of applications it would receive for a new grant.
After spending hours pulling together information requested for the new DigitalBoost Development Grant, launched this week, they have been told the money has already run out.
Peter Mowforth was among those who applied for the grant which is administered by Business Gateway and local authorities.
The scheme offered up to £25,000 to meet 75% of the cost of a project and promised a “quick and easy application process”. Companies that successfully registered were given a schedule and instructions to follow.
But far from being quick and easy they spent hours contacting other potential Scottish suppliers to get the information demanded, only to be told the scheme was closed as it had already been over-subscribed.
“The point was that we had already successfully registered and were part-way through the process. When we tried logging back in, site access was blocked,” said Mr Mowforth who runs Glasgow-based website developer Indez.
“Thousands of businesses have been diligently collecting the necessary information that we were all requested to do. This has taken up a lot of time and effort,” he said.
“I was then told that the scheme had closed because they had received several thousand applications.”
Launching the scheme on Tuesday, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “Supporting SMEs on their digital journey is key to Scotland’s economic recovery, our future prosperity and our net-zero ambitions and I encourage business owners to take up this valuable opportunity.”
But only £10m was allocated to the scheme which meant it could support just 400 firms, or about 12 per local authority.
“Why wasn’t the tsunami of applications expected? You can tell that there’s an election coming,” said Mr Mowforth.
“This will have taken up many tens of thousands of person-hours of work across Scotland putting together information asked for by a Government agency.”
Business Gateway appeared to have been caught out by the volume of applications.
It said on its Facebook page: “We have had a fantastic response with over 2,400 businesses beginning the application process on a first come first served basis.
“It has been very quickly oversubscribed and we have therefore paused additional registrations for the programme. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
However, Mr Mowforth said business owners he has spoken to are unimpressed that their time and effort has been wasted.
“This is time-wasting and damaging for thousands of businesses at such a difficult time,” he said. “The net result of spending £10m of public money has been to damage and alienate the Scottish Business community.
“All day I have been receiving emails from other businesses that are deeply unhappy about all this. Many have said that they have written to Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and Kate Forbes to complain.”