By Rory Murphy

The latest round of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Strategic Framework: Business Support Funding Statistics have been published and highlight that:

  • As many as 21,000 businesses faced rejection when applying for support, yet only 79% of the amount set aside for the period of 2nd November 2020 to 22nd March 2021 was spent from the Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF); 
  • Over 1/4 of applications to Local Authority Disretionary Funds were rejected, referred or deferred, and only £38m of £120m available to these funds had been allocated as of 26th of March;
  • 30% (21,054) of SFBF applications were rejected, and 1% (1,420) were either referred or deferred. The remaining 2% were still awaiting processing;
  • The Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund closed on 25 March 2021, yet only 64% of eligible drivers have been granted funding support and only 57% of the budget has been spent;

Jackie Baillie, left, has been repeatedly contacted by local business owners who have found themselves unable to access vital funding and have not been provided with explanations of why their applications were rejected.

Prior to the Scottish Parliament election recess, Jackie Baillie raised the concerns of local business owners and employers with the Scottish Government and called for a more targeted, sector specific approach to funding.

The figures also revealed that in West Dunbartonshire, 286 premises had their applications rejected. This equates to 29% of all applications. Similarly in Argyll and Bute, 992 premises had their applications rejected which equates to 33% of those who applied.

Jackie Baillie said:  “Lockdown has brought many businesses to the point of collapse so these statistics showing large underspends and thousands of businesses rejected for support grants will leave many local businesses feeling abandoned and worried about their future.

“I have spoken to many local business owners who are struggling to survive and make ends meet. They have done everything that they can to meet strict eligibility criteria for accessing funding but there are clearly still a number of barriers in place which means money is not getting into the hands of businesses who need it the most.

“There are now critical questions about why funding has been slow to be provided, how it has been administered and how could there both be such large under-spends and rejection rates. The fact that even the discretionary fund – which was supposed to be for those businesses that had fallen through the cracks – has been under-spent is alarming.

“This is money that should be in the hands of businesses not sitting in Scottish Government bank accounts. SNP ministers must urgently confirm that support schemes will be extended and set out how this money will be disbursed. My worry is that the consequence of this inaction will be high streets strewn with ’To Let’ signs.

“Scottish businesses need a government focused on recovering our shattered economy. Only Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a National Recovery Plan and rejecting the distraction of the politics of division.”

The disgrace that is Mitchell Way in Alexandria “town centre” and (above) Dumbarton’s Artizan Shopping Centre. Pictures by Bill Heaney

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