Hospitality – the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel in the village of Luss.
By Democrat reporter
MSP Jackie Baillie came out fighting hard for the hospitality and tourism industry in her Dumbarton constituency which includes jewel in the crown Loch Lomond plus Helensburgh and the Lochside.
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, had just told the Holyrood Parliament that the SNP government had just allocated more than £3 billion to businesses since the beginning of the pandemic.
“That is more than a third of overall Covid spend, with the vast majority having been paid out to businesses already.”
However, Jackie Baillie said: “The additional top-up for hospitality, retail and leisure is, of course, very welcome. Unfortunately, the self-catering sector appears to have been missed out. Such businesses are also hospitality businesses.
“There are hundreds of self-catering businesses in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park area, and there are thousands throughout Scotland, including in the cabinet secretary’s constituency.
“Those businesses feel that they are being treated very unfairly. Why are there no similar one-off grants for that sector, and will the cabinet secretary urgently review the position?”
Kate Forbes replied: “Jackie Baillie is quite right to ask about self-catering properties, but I stress that they are already eligible for grants through the strategic framework business fund. All non-domestic-rated businesses that are required by law to close—that includes self-catering businesses in level 4 areas—are eligible. We have not excluded them.
“On the question about one-off payments, the self-catering sector is one of the very few that have a bespoke sectoral scheme. Work is at an advanced stage on designing that and making payments. That will be the second sectoral scheme for self-catering businesses; the previous one was launched last summer. All members know from our mailbags that many sectors that would like sectoral schemes do not have that kind of specific support.
“I understand the concerns. We have announced a self-catering business specific grant, and we will honour the commitment to deliver it.
“Things have changed, with the changes to the current restrictions on business, so right now just under 50,000 businesses can apply to the open strategic framework business fund to receive their recurring four-weekly grants, which will be paid in January. Those are administered by local authorities.
“The December payment was made more than a week early, before Christmas, and we are on track to make the January payment on time. I remind members that all eligible businesses that have been forced to close can apply right now. That is clearly a vast swathe of the business community.
“Most of them will also a get a top-up of up to £25,000, which will be paid in January and is, obviously, more generous than the top-up that was announced in the December statement.
“Businesses can apply for that grant right now, but in order to reduce the administrative burden for businesses and local authorities, we have streamlined the schemes, so both payments will be made in one go in January.
Tory MSP Jamie Greene was not satisfied with that reply. He said: “How much of the £185 million that was announced on 9 January has actually been paid out to businesses? We are halfway through January and businesses are going to the wall. Jobs are being lost every day. It is not good enough to make top-line promises without delivering quickly enough on the ground.
“I again ask the cabinet secretary to explain how much of the fund has been physically delivered to real businesses, in cash, on the ground. If the cabinet secretary does not know the answer to that, will she commit to researching and gathering the data from local authorities, and to publishing and reporting it every week so that we know that businesses are getting the money that is announced after top-level announcements?”
Kate Forbes, pictured right, assured parliament: “Data on payments that were made in December will be published imminently.
“Just under 50,000 businesses can currently apply to the open strategic framework business fund to receive four-weekly recurring grants, which will be paid in January. On our track record, local authorities paid out the grant in December a week early.
“The top-up that was announced on Monday means that pubs and restaurants in Scotland that have a rateable value of up to £15,000—in other words, small businesses—will receive more than £2,500 more this month than their equivalents in England will receive under the Tories.
“Local authorities are working extremely hard to distribute the grants, which will be paid in January as we promised. We recognise the huge pressure on businesses right now.”
Kate Forbes added: “In December we announced a one-off payment. For the hospitality sector, that has been considerably increased to up to £25,000 for larger businesses. That means that a property such as a pub or a restaurant with a rateable value of more than £51,000 will receive £16,000 more than its equivalent south of the border.
“We expect tens of thousands of business premises to be eligible for that top-up, which covers retail, hospitality and leisure. As eligibility is aligned with the strategic framework, businesses need to make only one application. They will receive the four-weekly recurring grant as well as the top-up. In my previous answer, I indicated that a majority of the businesses that apply will receive that top-up.”
It was then Jackie Baillie made her point about self-catering, the Minister said: “I understand the concerns. We have announced a self-catering business specific grant, and we will honour the commitment to deliver it.”