A new fund designed to help businesses during the Covid-19 crisis had to be closed within just 24 hours after being inundated with bids for cash, MSPs have been told.
Nicola Sturgeon said the Digital Boost fund “has very quickly been oversubscribed” and ministers are now looking at how additional cash could be put into it.
Scottish Conservatives Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said it shows how “desperate” firms are for financial aid during the pandemic.
Davidson said: “It was meant to remain open for six weeks but it has already shut within 24 hours because it was inundated and oversubscribed.”
Challenging the First Minister on the support available to businesses, the Tory added that leaked documents show only seven out of 30 support funds announced by the Scottish Government have actually launched.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Wednesday, Davidson said the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland has complained vital funding is “trapped in an administrative log-jam”.
She added: “Businesses are crying out for funding, but the funds aren’t opening and the guidance hasn’t been delivered.”
She said that on the Falkirk Council website, 16 funds that could help are listed, but the webpage also advises businesses: “Please do not contact us about these funds because we do not have details yet.”
Sturgeon said the government has allocated £715m to business support since October.
She said “£600m of that is already live” with the “vast majority” of funds not yet open for application due to do so later this month.
“Payments are flowing to businesses,” she said.
“And at the end of this month, businesses that are eligible for additional top-up payments will receive those payments.
“I haven’t seen the leaked documents Ruth Davidson referred to, I am happy to have a look at them and see whether they are up to date or whether they are perhaps out of date.
“But since October we have allocated £715m to business support.”
She said this included “bespoke funding” for sectors such as tourism and culture that have been “hit particularly hard” during the pandemic, as well as financial aid for other groups like the newly self-employed and taxi drivers.
Sturgeon also said she has discussed with finance secretary Kate Forbes “how we do support councils to get the money out of the door more quickly and into the pockets of businesses more quickly”.
She added: “Ruth Davidson seeks to give the impression no money has flowed to businesses, that is not the case.
“We have announced many additional streams of support as different sectors have made the case for additional funding.
“When we announce that of course we have to put the arrangements in place, usually through local authorities. Local authorities often ask us for additional guidance about eligibility for that.
“That is an ongoing process we will continue to speed up and accelerate as much as we possibly can.”
But Davidson said the Scottish Government must “get to grips” with the issue.
She added: “The Scottish Government is great at making the announcements but this is about getting money delivered into people’s pockets and it is not getting there.
“Way back on March 24, Kate Forbes said the aim was to make payments in ten working days. Right now there are sectors out there who would delighted if they could see promised cash in ten weeks.”
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