£14m Scots hotel support package 'overwhelmed' by demand

A flagship £14 million fund for Scotland's beleaguered hotel industry has been overwhelmed with applications prompting claims of a "catastrophic miscalculation" about the level of support needed.

Ardoe House hotel near Aberdeen has been among those to close its doors after falling into liquidation

Almost 300 establishments have sought assistance through the Scottish Government's Hotel Support Programme - five times as many as the scheme was originally envisioned to help.

The Scottish Government has said it expected to provide support for more than the 60 hotels earmarked for help, but it is not clear if this will meet demand.

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The sector has been among the worst hit during the pandemic, with many hotels being forced to close their doors for good after losing out on much of their Summer season, while widespread travel restrictions have put paid to their Winter season.

The figures have emerged in a Parliamentary question obtained by Labour's deputy leader and finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie.

She said: “The SNP’s catastrophic miscalculation on the level of support needed risks leaving scores of hotels high and dry and puts the jobs of thousands of workers at risk.

“Tourism is pivotal to Scotland’s economy, but the SNP are playing fast and loose with the very future of the industry by providing such limited support.

“Frankly, the support on offer doesn’t touch the sides. It’s time for SNP ministers to go back to the drawing board and come up with a proper plan to protect our hotel industry.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has said in a Parliamentary response to Ms Baillie it remains unclear how many hotels will get support because talks are continuing with a "small number" of applicants about the detail of their support package.

But he added: "Originally, the Hotel Support Programme was expected to support in the region of 60 hotels.

"Despite the Programme being heavily oversubscribed following the submission of 295 Expressions of Interest, our expectation is that we will be able to exceed the original expected number of hotels supported."

The industry will qualify for other support packages provided by Holyrood and Westminster, including the Job support scheme. Scotland’s Finance Secretary kate Forbes recently announced an additional one-off payments to hospitality businesses in January to help them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand. These will be of £2,000 or £3,000, depending on rateable value.

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