Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has hit back at critics of the Scottish Government’s support for businesses during the coronavirus emergency.
He said: “The package of support for business in Scotland now exceeds the £2.2 billion of consequentials received from the UK Government.
“The Scottish Government has allocated an additional £120 million to the grant scheme for businesses to ensure that small business rate payers would be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties, in addition to a 100% grant on their first property.
“A further £100m fund will target people who might not currently be eligible for other forms of support.
“The system in Scotland is also reaching many sectors that have no equivalent support in England. For example, there is around £23 million worth of support for the seafood, fishing and aquaculture sectors. This is absolutely vital for seafood businesses in my constituency, given the virtual collapse of their markets. There is also 100% relief for the aviation sector, helping companies like Loganair through the current crisis.
“The small business grants also reach many thousands more businesses than they would have under the English scheme, as the Small Business Bonus Scheme is more generous than its equivalent in England.
“If, like some are suggesting, the Scottish Government moved closer to the UK Government scheme, thousands of businesses would lose support, support would be cut-off to sectors vital to islands’ economy like fishing, and there would be nothing for the newly self-employed who currently fall through the cracks.
“This is a serious and difficult times for businesses and for the economy in general; it’s not a time for petty party politics.”
This followed a series from claims from Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who is that party’s Shadow Finance Secretary.
He warned that continued differences in providing financial support between Scotland and the rest of the UK were putting Scottish businesses at a disadvantage.
“We have received feedback from worried business representatives that the Scottish government is providing significantly less support for the retail, hospitality and leisure industry than other parts of the UK.
“This is of very great concern, not least because those sectors are particularly important to the economy of the Highlands and Islands.
“Our businesses want a level playing field across the UK and we cannot give the impression that Scotland is a less attractive place to set up and run a business.
“The SNP Government needs to resist its instinct to do things differently when there is no need, especially when we are responding to a national emergency.”
At the same time, the news broke that Scotland has recorded its lowest total sales figures since records began.
Mr Cameron said: “Sadly, these retail results come as little surprise but, nevertheless, they are a very worrying indicator of the damage this crisis has wrought on the Scottish economy.
“I am particularly concerned on behalf of my own Highlands and Islands region as we are so dependent on a healthy retail sector.
“The Scottish Government needs to crack on and draft an economic recovery plan which puts business at its heart.
“Ministers have lacked a sureness of touch with regard to the private sector and need to evidence by their actions that Scottish businesses will not be placed at even more of a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts south of the border.”
And Mr Cameron is also supporting calls for sporting businesses to receive government assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Cameron is giving strong backing to a motion that has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament by fellow Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser which emphasises the importance of the industry to rural Scotland.
Mr Cameron said: “No-one can doubt the contribution that gamekeepers, ghillies and estate staff make to rural communities across the Highlands and Islands.
“Like other sectors, country sport businesses and the people who rely on them for employment, are facing unprecedented challenges which threaten their jobs and way of life.
“The Scottish Government should extend the same support to them that it does to other business sectors which require help to see them through this crisis. They must not be overlooked.”