The Scottish Government has announced new coronavirus support worth £220m for smaller businesses and the self-employed.
In a change to its original stance, the government says it will extend emergency grants to small companies with more than one premises, benefiting firms like local chains and those with multiple offices.
It comes after pressure from opposition politicians and the business community over Scottish ministers’ initial decision to hand out grants on a one per business basis rather than a one per property basis, unlike the scheme in England and Wales.
Announcing the new package, finance secretary Kate Forbes said firms with more than one premises can now apply for 75% of the grant available for each subsequent property in an investment of £120m.
She originally announced small businesses and those in the hospitality sector would be eligible for grants of up to £10,000 and £25,000 respectively.
The financial package also includes specific help worth £100m for the newly self-employed, businesses with acute short term cash-flow problems and for other firms excluded from existing help.
Forbes said: “We are doing everything we can to support business at this difficult time and we continue to listen to and engage with the sector.
“Our support for business now exceeds the £2.2bn passed on from the UK Government and actively works to fill the gaps in the UK schemes.
“Around 100,000 businesses in total are already eligible for our small business grants and from today we will be extending that scheme in response to feedback from businesses on the frontline of this economic crisis.”
But she urged businesses not to claim for help if they are not in financial difficulty, comparing it to the advice to shoppers to only buy what they need from supermarkets.
The finance secretary also announced the rollout of a £100m fund for businesses ineligible for other types of support, such as the new self-employed and certain home-based and vehicle firms.
Forbes said: “With UK Government support not being available until June, we are going further to secure the future economic viability of Scottish firms.”
Scottish Government officials say the grant extension will be available for applications from May 5 and the £100m fund will be open by the end of April.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the move was a “positive step” while the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the package “should plug some of the most obvious and dangerous gaps in coronavirus support for smaller firms and the self-employed”.
Colin Borland, the FSB’s director of devolved nations, added: “For those that were due to receive nothing – like the new self-employed and some home-based and vehicle firms – this new help could be a lifeline.
“For others – like smaller chains – it could provide a critical top up to the money already in the pipeline.
“This help looks more flexible than previous schemes, and ministers in Edinburgh deserve credit for adjusting the help on offer following feedback from firms and the FSB.”
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The SNP Government has spent weeks defending its approach in the face of severe criticism from Scotland’s business community.
“Now, after pressure from the Scottish Conservatives, it has finally accepted its failings.”