Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur (pictured), has today (Tuesday) urged Ministers to further review eligibility criteria for self-catering businesses seeking to access the Coronavirus Business Support Fund.
Following calls by Mr McArthur and MSP colleagues last week, Ministers agreed to include self-catering businesses in the list of those able to benefit from funding support during the Coronavirus outbreak.
However, only those able to demonstrate that self-catering is their primary source of income can apply to the fund.
This requirement has resulted in concerns raised within the sector, including by the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC), that many self-caterers will continue to be excluded from accessing vital support.
The ASSC has also pointed out that the Scottish Government’s approach means that there is a lack of parity in support when compared to other self-caterers across the rest of the UK.
In response, Mr McArthur has once again written to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, highlighting the significant number of self-caterers in Orkney that will miss out on vital support as a result of the government’s criteria.
He has urged Ms Forbes to urgently reconsider her approach so that all self-catering businesses can be included.
Mr McArthur commented:
“I welcome the Scottish Government’s agreement to extend support to self-catering businesses, impacted by the current crisis.
“However, the changes don’t go far enough and still exclude many businesses that are a vital part of the tourism sector in Orkney and across Scotland.
“While self-catering might not account for the primary source of income, in many instances it is still essential to the overall income upon which individuals and households depend.
“As Kate Forbes will know from her own constituency, I’m sure, without this income, these and other businesses become more vulnerable and potentially unviable.
“Of course, we must avoid public funds being directed towards empty second homes and businesses that are not active.
“However, the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers has put forward reasonable suggestions about how the eligibility criteria might be relaxed to allow more legitimate self-catering businesses to access the support they need.
“I have written again to the Finance Secretary urging her to undertake a further review of the scheme, reflect on the ASSC’s proposals and come forward with further amendments to the scheme.”