Coronavirus in Scotland: comment by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

As Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact across the world there is major uncertainty in financial markets, supply chains and the functioning of the global economy.

The overall economic impact will be severe and we are treating it as an economic emergency triggered by the enormity of the health emergency we all face.

We know that the challenges for Scottish businesses are acute so we are working to deliver three main economic aims. The first is to keep companies in business and with productive capacity so that they can recover.

The second is to keep staff in employment with appropriate income protection and support.

And the third and most important aim is to provide support to staff so that they can self-isolate and care for their loved ones.

That is why we are doing all we can to protect people’s lives and protect their livelihoods too.

As we promised, we are passing every penny from all the funds received from the UK Government on to businesses and individuals impacted by this crisis.

We have introduced a package of relief and grants worth £2.2 billion. This will ensure that small businesses receiving the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief will be eligible for a £10,000 grant. Hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000 are eligible for a £25,000 grant.

On business rates, we have effectively frozen the poundage rate next year and are providing relief for properties in hospitality, leisure and retail.

While we are focused on ensuring this vital financial support helps as many businesses and employers as possible, we are clear that our responsibility is to meet the unique needs and circumstances of Scotland’s economy. These are different to the rest of the UK.

Proportionately we have a higher share of employees in small and medium size businesses than both England and the rest of the UK as a whole.

As a result of the steps taken so far, hundreds more businesses are benefiting from our support compared with elsewhere and we have also been able to help sectors of the economy that are not being supported in other parts of the UK such as aviation, seafood fishing and fish processing, the creative industries and charities.

We will continue to listen to the needs of businesses across Scotland to ensure they are receiving the maximum possible help and support. Crucially we will also continue to engage with the trade union movement to ensure employees’ needs and concerns are being heard.

And we will continue to urge the UK Government to deliver the greater level of support we need in Scotland because of our larger number of small businesses, rather than allocating funding on population share.

Kate Forbes is the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance

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