A leading voice in Highland and Islands business has said that many B and B operators will be drawing a “huge sigh of relief” after the Scottish Government announced a support package for those previously ineligible.
Prior to the Scottish Government’s announcement on Tuesday, some small B and Bs had been ineligible for support due to not having a business bank account.
Now those establishments will be able to apply for a share of £3 million of funding which has been repurposed from the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund.
This funding for small B and Bs will be administered by local authorities and applications are expected to open on 15th June.
Commenting on Tuesday, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Today I announced that £3 million of the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund allocation will be re-purposed to support B and Bs who were ineligible for other support due to not having a business bank account.
“These businesses are an important part of Scotland’s tourism sector, particularly in rural areas, yet were not eligible for support from the hardship fund.
“I hope this change will help ensure they are ready to welcome visitors once again as soon as circumstances allow.
“This support is not available to equivalent businesses in the rest of the UK and is another example of how the Scottish Government is reacting to meet the needs of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Commenting on the news, David Richardson, the Federation of Small Businesses Highlands and Islands Development Manager said: “I have been approached by a range of long-established and well-known B and B operators during this crisis, all very concerned that they were missing out on Scottish Government support because they did not have business bank accounts.
“There is absolutely no reason why they should, and it seemed very unfair that they were being refused funding on a technicality.
“FSB Scotland is campaigning hard to ensure that cracks in the support mechanism for smaller businesses are filled in, and we are sure that right across the Highlands and Islands, many, many B and B operators will be drawing a huge sigh of relief at this news.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, who had been campaigning on behalf of businesses that were ineligible, welcomed the change of tact by the government.
He said: “At long last, there is some business sense from the Scottish Government. I am delighted that this u-turn will mean hundreds of B and Bs will now receive the lifeline support they so desperately need.
“Since I began this campaign I have been contacted by B and Bs in Glencoe, Strathspey, Skye, Aberdeenshire, and Dumfries – all have felt let down and abandoned by this Scottish Government.
“Businesses who operate without business bank accounts should never have been ineligible for funding in the first place.
“If the Cabinet Secretary for Finance had been more aware of the reality of how small businesses operate, then this fiasco could have been prevented from the beginning.
“B and Bs have been made to wait too long for funding and I trust the Scottish Government will now make the application process as smooth as possible so funding can be delivered quickly.
Skye MSP Kate Forbes said: “I am aware that some B and Bs had missed out on previous funding because they didn’t have a business bank account, and I have been working hard behind the scenes to help find a solution.
“As of 15 June, such B and Bs can apply to a scheme administered by local authorities for a lump sum of £3,000, which was the default amount through the Hardship Scheme. This is specifically for B and B businesses that don’t have a business bank account.
“I realise that many people are facing significant difficulties as we look ahead to a challenging tourist season, and also that this funding will not replace the lost income. I do hope, however, that it offers some help.”