Demand for support as Scottish small business owners and self-employed face mental health crisis

Two fifths of Scottish business owners are worried about their mental health amid the economic fallout from the pandemic, a survey of 1,200 entrepreneurs has found.

More than half of the respondents to the Federation of Small Businesses poll said that they had concerns about the survival of their business during lockdown.

Meanwhile, more than half of the respondents (55 per cent) to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) poll said that they had concerns about the survival of their business.

The business body wants to see the Scottish Government pilot a new support service specifically for small business owners and the self-employed to prevent a mental health crisis.

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Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Speak to any group of people in business in Scotland and you’ll find that the last 12 months has taken a toll on their collective mental health. It is little wonder.

“They have faced the same life challenges as the rest of the population, with the added pressure of taking endless high-stakes decisions about the future of their business.

“While we want to see governments in Edinburgh and London take better care of the small business community, we have to take care of each other. That means more people in business seeking out help for themselves or their staff.”

The survey found that slightly less than half (46 per cent) of business owners were worried about keeping up-to-date with changing government regulations. About a third of company owners (30 per cent) said that repaying debt weighed on their mind, while more than two-fifths (44 per cent) are worried about their pay or the income of their family.

The survey, conducted between 13 and 18 January, shows that only one in three Scottish businesses is trading broadly as normal, with a similar proportion either closed voluntarily or by law. About a third remain open but in a restricted manner.

Some two thirds of businesses (64 per cent) report that either they are struggling to stay afloat or that sales and profits are under sustained pressure.

In a letter to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes ahead of the Scottish Government budget, set to be published next week, the FSB is urging ministers to commit to maintain coronavirus-related rate reliefs for smaller firms for at least the next two financial years.

The group also wants government, councils, regulators and agencies to reduce, freeze or scrap charges and fees until smaller firms “get back on their feet”.

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