It was pleasing to see yesterday’s announcement by the Scottish Government on additional business support measures, following an intense period of lobbying by business generally, and specifically the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Armstrong Watson.
It was clear that there were significant gaps between grants available to businesses in Scotland, restricted to one per business, compared to eligibility by property in the rest of the UK.
In addition, there is a gap for the recently self employed (from April 2019) and indeed for other smaller businesses who cannot access other forms of support.
Around £220 million of further grants are being made available for businesses - including the recently self-employed - to help them deal with the ongoing public impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The new package of measures includes £120 million to extend the Small Business Grant scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, small business rate payers will be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties. Although not exactly comparable with the rest of the UK, where 100% of the grant per property remains available, it is a welcome step in the right direction.
A further £100 million fund is also being made available to protect self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses in distress due to COVID-19. This fund will be channelled through local authorities and enterprise agencies to target newly self-employed people and businesses that are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK Government schemes.
We await further clarity on whether this will include the self employed with historic profits over £50,000, whose income has now fallen dramatically or to zero. This remains an inconsistency compared to the employed sector, where employers can claim 80% of salary for furloughed employees, with no upper cap on salaries for eligibility, albeit subject to a maximum claim of £2500 per employee per month. Additionally, we await clarification on whether this assistance will extend to small limited companies who pay directors/shareholders mainly by dividends.
Applications for the £100 million fund will be open by the end of the month, and the new arrangements for the Small Business Grant will be in place to receive applications on 5 May.
We will continue to update you as soon as we receive further clarity on eligibility criteria, application process and timing of payment.