Business groups have called for £375 million in new funding for the Scottish Government to be used to save struggling firms as a new lockdown starts.
The Treasury announced £4.6 billion in new spending after England was put into its own lockdown, with Scotland to receive a proportionate amount of funding as a result.
On Monday, Nicola Sturgeon announced a new lockdown in Scotland until at least the end of January – including a legally enforceable stay-at-home order – after an exponential rise in cases caused by a new Covid-19 variant.
The First Minister told MSPs that further initiatives would be announced later this week to help struggling companies which have been forced to close.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for funding to be provided by the end of the month.
FSB Scotland policy chairman Andrew McCrae said: “This new cash injection could help a share of Scottish firms survive until the vaccine is rolled out. The Scottish Government must ensure this new funding reaches businesses before the end of January.
“The new £375 million should be split between cash grants for smaller property based firms, and extra help for non-premises based operators that have had little or no help so far.
“But before any of this can happen, councils and government need to break the administrative logjam preventing money reaching businesses.”
Part of the Treasury support will see up to 600,000 retail and hospitality businesses offered a grant of up to £9,000, depending on size.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has estimated its members will lose as much as £675 million in the course of the new lockdown, which will see the length of time non-essential shops are forced to close from mid-January to February 1.
The group’s director David Lonsdale said it is “vital” for a proportion of the funding to be made available for businesses which will continue to be closed as a result of the new restrictions, calling on Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to provide “early clarity” on forthcoming support.
“In England these funds will be directed at retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses forced to close down,” he said.
“Whilst the mechanisms of support may well be different here – and the Scottish Government has already laid out some support – it’s fair and appropriate these new funds are used to support the same types of firms in Scotland.
“We therefore hope the Finance Secretary will provide early clarity on how this latest windfall will be used to keep retail and other consumer facing firms viable during the current forced hibernation.”
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