Ministers have been told that “every day counts” as businesses in Scotland wait for coronavirus financial support.
Additional funding was announced by the Scottish Government before Christmas aimed at helping firms hit by the new Covid-19 measures.
However, the Night Time Industries Association in Scotland has indicated that businesses have not received a “single penny” so far.
Gavin Stevenson, who represents the body, warned that business owners and staff are being put in an “untenable situation”, with application forms for the Night Clubs Closure Fund having not yet been issued.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, deputy first minister John Swinney said that the next two weeks would be a “reasonable expectation” for the funding to be made available.
He told the BBC: “We are obviously moving as quickly as we can do to make the financial support available to the sectors that have been affected by the restrictions that are applied.
“We work closely with local authorities to make sure that such funding arrangements can be put in place, and I know from the work of the finance secretary (Kate Forbes), she has been engaging closely with the range of sectors involved.
“And it is our objective to get that money to those organisations as quickly as we possibly can and I recognise the necessity to do that with all urgency.”
Swinney added: “I think the timescales should be very soon. It is difficult for me to give a precise timescale.
“I would think within the next two weeks would be a reasonable expectation but obviously we are working with local authorities and it depends very much on the administrative systems that are put in place.
“But I do give the assurance that this has got the attention of ministers and that there is work going on with local authorities to enable that to be the case. “
Scottish Conservative Covid recovery spokesman Murdo Fraser said that it is “not good enough” for local authorities to be blamed for the delay in issuing compensation.
“It’s unacceptable that struggling businesses already on their knees as a result of Scottish Government restrictions are still waiting to receive a penny in financial support and are now being told it may be a further fortnight before they do so,” he said.
“Many of these businesses are in danger of going under, so every day counts.
“The SNP Government received funding from the UK Government weeks ago and promised to pass it on before Christmas, so it’s not good enough for John Swinney to blame local authorities for the delay in issuing compensation.
“The deputy first minister also offered no clarity on which sectors the SNP’s discredited vaccine passport scheme might be extended to.”
Fraser added: “Once again, they are creating a vacuum when businesses require certainty.
John Swinney says the scheme – which dramatically reduced takings when introduced for nightclubs – is designed to increase vaccine uptake.
“Yet the Scottish Government’s own research paper failed to provide any evidence that it had worked. They should be dropping this policy, not extending it.”