FMQs: Five-month delay in lifeline support for crisis-hit Scots firms

Nicola Sturgeon said the Government is not "sitting on money"Nicola Sturgeon said the Government is not "sitting on money"
Nicola Sturgeon said the Government is not "sitting on money"
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the Scottish Government is not "sitting on money" earmarked for crisis hit Scots businesses after it emerged thousands have not received lifeline grants after five months.

The First Minister accepted that the Government faces a challenge to get emergency support to firms facing meltdown after she announced that the whole of mainland Scotland goes into Level 4 lockdown from Boxing Day - meaning all but non-essential retail is shut.

Tory Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson told the SNP leader at First Ministers Questions that many small operators around the country were now on the brink of collapse over the impact of losing vital New years sales.

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Ms Davidson cited the case of sofa shop owner Ryan Hutcheon from Linwood who has had two customers in the past two weeks and is "bleeding money to the point where “I'm close to broke with very little to survive on” because of the lockdown.

"The next three weeks of lockdown will cripple me if I don't get help," he was quoted as saying by Ms Davidson at Holyrood.

The small business owner who has tw children added that he had £754 in the bank, with the rent due at the start of January.

Ms Davidson said: "Ryan can't survive until some unknown date in January without receiving grant support."

The Tory Holyrood leader also spoke of a border hairdresser who said the latest lockdown will be "final nail in the coffin" for her salon, and cited the owner of a women's clothes chain who is "terrified" her business will go under.

"They have no reserves left," Ms Davidson warned.

She demanded to know how long it will take for emergency funding to "hit the bank accounts" of firms on the edge of collapse.

Ms Davidson said the Government has been "far too slow" at getting support out to firms.

Figures released last week showed two schemes - the Small Business Grants Scheme and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Scheme received over 106,000 applications.

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"By December 8th only 91,000 had been processed," Ms Davidson said.

"Those schemes closed five months ago – 15,000 businesses still waiting five months on and fewer than 500 applications were processed in the period between September and December.

"Given that record what confidence can businesses have that schemes announced in this December will actually pay out in January?"

The First Minister accepted it was "right and fair" for the Scottish Government to be challenged to get the money distributed as "quickly as possible."

But she added: "I don't accept that we sit on money - we have allocated all the money at our disposal."

Businesses forced to close by law in level 4 can apply for Strategic Framework Business Funds, Ms Sturgeon said, and are eligible for a grant of up to £3,000 depending on rates. These are applied for every four weeks of restrictions.

Ministers are also reviewing what extra support can provided to firms.

The SNP leader said much of the funding is administered through councils and ministers are working to get it to businesses as "quickly as possible."

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She added: "We will do our level best to provide as much support as possible."

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