A £60 million drive to kick-start growth in Scotland’s ailing economy has been unveiled.
More than 20,000 small businesses will benefit from cash which is also expected to help create thousands of jobs.
But firms are warning that the cash must be “easy to access” amid growing concerns over the lack of co-ordination between enterprise agencies and the Scottish Government.
The investment comes as it emerged earlier this month that Scotland’s economy is now growing at a third of the rate of the wider UK, prompting calls for Scottish Government action to boost GDP.
Smaller firms account for about one million jobs in Scotland and today’s cash from the European Regional Development Fund will allow small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access the help they need to expand, according to economy secretary Keith Brown.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to support our SMEs – the engine of the Scottish economy,” Mr Brown said.
“The investment will benefit more than 20,000 enterprises, with the aim of identifying and developing our next 1,000 growth businesses. Business Gateway support alone is forecast to create 11,000 jobs.
“This investment shows exactly why the best way to guarantee jobs, investment, services and projects across the country, is by maintaining Scotland’s relationship with the EU.”
Ministers recently came under fire from the business community for moves such as scaling down business rates relief on empty properties.
The latest GDP figures showed that Scotland’s GDP over the year was 0.7 per cent against 2.2 per cent UK-wide.
Stuart MacKinnon, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said the latest funding is good news.
“Small and medium sized firms already provide more than a million private jobs, and it is great to see Scotland’s decision-makers recognise their importance,” he added.
“It is vital that this new package of help is easy to access and focussed on firms’ needs, not other targets. During the current review of Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies, we’ve argued for better co-ordination between agencies and central government.”
Stephen Hagan of council body Cosla said: “This additional funding will be a huge boost to Scotland’s SME community and will allow us to build on a successful year.”