The Scottish Government will repurpose unused funds designed to sustain businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak to help rebuild the economy, the economy secretary has said.
Speaking during a debate on the next steps for the economy as Scotland emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, Fiona Hyslop said “targeted” initiatives would be set up, using cash that had not been spent in support of firms during the outbreak.
The Scottish Government pledged £2.3bn in support for businesses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
She also announced £3m that would be redeployed from the Scottish Government’s hardship fund for the newly self employed to support bed and breakfasts who do not have a business bank account and are therefore ineligible for support.
The new fund, which will be administered by local authorities, will open for applications on June 15.
Speaking in the chamber, Hyslop said: “When the crisis hit, we moved quickly to support businesses to deal with cash flow challenges through our £2.3bn business support package, but we are aware that many have also had to take on debt to survive.
“Where we can do more, we will. Where the current funds are not oversubscribed we are committed to taking any available funding and targeting it back into the economy where it is needed most.”
Speaking for the Scottish Conservatives, Maurice Golden told the Scottish Government there needed to be more clarity over when businesses will be able to open.
Mr Golden said that Scottish firms working across the UK would be put at a disadvantage if their counterparts in other countries are allowed to open earlier, potentially seeing them lose business.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard pledged they would work with the Scottish Government “to get every one of Scotland’s people through this crisis”, but accused ministers of being unprepared for the economic toll of the virus.
Leonard said: “The underlying weaknesses of the Scottish economy have not been tackled, all the years when the Scottish Government could have been taking action to diversify and strengthen the Scottish economy, it has failed to do so.”
Green MSP Andy Wightman welcomed plans to base the economic recovery on wellbeing, as he said the impact of Covid-19 had hit women, young people and the minority ethnic population the hardest.
“These groups have suffered flat wages, job insecurity and high housing costs since the financial crash over ten years ago,” he said.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said politicians must take the chance to build a better economy in the aftermath of Covid-19.
He said: “We have a responsibility to future generations to get this right, we would never be forgiven if we were to leave them with a massive debt without taking the opportunity to reshape our society and our economy into a more sustainable, fair and just model.
“Out of this darkness we need to do something new, something better, something that we can achieve for this country to create that sustainable future we can all be proud of.”