Some small businesses remain excluded from coronavirus aid schemes because they don't pay rates direct to local authorities.
Now Scottish Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron has demanded that the Scottish Government closes a loophole to ensure that certain small businesses receive financial support in circumstances where they pay rates in their rent but are not the ‘named’ business ratepayer.
Mr Cameron raised the issue on Thursday 14th May with Kate Forbes, Scottish Finance Secretary in the Scottish Parliament, asking that that the loophole is closed and that these Scottish businesses are not forgotten.
Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “Unfortunately the current position is causing many small businesses in my region, and across Scotland, extreme hardship.
“They need financial support as they are adhering to the public health restrictions necessary to keep us all safe but, as a consequence, are suffering massive falls in income.
“As the SNP Government has already performed a U-turn on support for businesses with multiple premises after pressure was applied, I am hopeful they will act swiftly to close this loophole, and give businesses who indirectly pay rates proper support."
The loophole currently affects a number of businesses in shared premises who are equally affected by the current economic lockdown but are usually tenants and thus not eligible for support as the named business ratepayer – for example, units in covered markets.
The UK Government has already taken steps to fix exactly this oversight in the rest of the UK. On the 2nd May the UK Government announced the 'Top-up to local business grant fund scheme' in England which has accommodated certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme and allows for the allocation of funding to be at the discretion of local authorities.
The Scottish Conservatives are advocating that the Scottish Government follows this approach and supports all Scottish businesses in the same way.
In full, Donald Cameron’s question was as follows: “Despite the best efforts of both UK and Scottish governments, it is still the case that certain types of enterprise are falling through the cracks in terms of business support. One scenario is where you have a city centre market or business park, where there is a landlord who is eligible for support as the named ratepayer, but with lots of tenants who are not eligible despite indirectly paying rates in their rent. Does the Cabinet Secretary accept this is a loophole which must be closed immediately, given the extreme hardship it is causing many small businesses across Scotland who are desperately concerned about survival? “