The following briefing has been sent to all MSPs this afternoon.
- Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on Scottish society and the economy. Those in the tourism sector, including self-catering, have been particularly impacted by the restrictions to combat the pandemic.
- The cumulative impact of these measures, from limits on household gatherings to widespread travel restrictions, means that self-catering in Scotland faces a very bleak winter if no measures are taken to mitigate this.
- A combination of a non-existent customer base coupled with no financial support from government leaves the sector in an unsustainable position, one that jeopardises the livelihoods of hardworking professionals and the economic benefit they provide to local communities.
- The Scottish Government should therefore reconsider the eligibility criteria for their financial support for businesses hit by Covid-19 restrictions so that more self-caterers can access these vital funds.
Previous Scottish Government Financial Support
- Earlier this year, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers was grateful for the financial support provided by the Scottish Government through the grant scheme, although access to these funds was beset by problems concerning eligibility. To rectify this, the Scottish Government created a £1m fund for self-caterers, administered by Visit Scotland and the ASSC, that enabled redress for some of those who had missed out on vital support.
- Moreover, in the summer, the sector was buoyed by the reopening of tourist accommodation and self-catering led the way with government backed cleaning protocols and the safe reopening from early July onwards.
Effect of Covid-19 Restrictions on Self-Catering
- However, the accumulation of various coronavirus restrictions since that time has resulted in a deleterious situation for professional self-caterers the length and breadth of Scotland. The restrictions on gatherings to one household has rendered self-catering businesses accommodating 7+ unviable since 23rd September 2020. This accounts for a substantial proportion of the market in Scotland.
- Furthermore, with the recent restrictions placed on travel, just under half of the Scottish population cannot travel outwith their local authority area and those travelling from the Central Belt (where most level 3 and 4 areas are located) comprise a sizeable component part of the market for rural self-catering properties.
- Moreover, another key part of the domestic market, travellers from the rest of the UK cannot travel to Scotland at the present time.
The Lack of Financial Support for Scottish Self-Catering
- In terms of eligibility for a temporary closure grant, self-catering is eligible at Level 4. In respect of business restriction funds, self-catering is not listed in terms of eligibility. As Scottish Government guidance makes clear in respect of both funds “any business not specifically mentioned is ineligible.”
- Self-catering units outwith Level 4 are thus excluded from business restriction funds, despite the travel restrictions directly impacting bookings, as well the cumulative effect of various Covid-19 restrictions that render self-catering unviable.
- On 26th November, the Scottish Government’s Tourism Directorate stated:
“Self-catering, B&Bs and Visitor attractions businesses that are in Level 1&2 or Level 3, but are finding visitor numbers lower because of the travel / gatherings restrictions are not eligible for Hardship Fund support.
Funding eligibility is dependent on what level the business itself is in and what direct restrictions are placed on it, rather than its customer base. Indirect restrictions, arising from both travel and socialising restrictions are not a basis for additional financial support.”
- Self-caterers in Levels 1, 2 and 3 in Scotland are legally able to remain trading, but their business has all but disappeared – yet they have no access to funds to help them through. Alongside the lack of support from the Scottish Government, self-caterers are unable to access various schemes from the UK Government, including Furlough and Self-Employment Income Support, and cannot benefit from mortgage holidays beyond six months.
- It is our understanding that in England, there is no similar restriction to our sector in respect of the Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG Open) which supports businesses that have been severely affected by local restrictions but have not closed. We believe this underlines the importance of ensuring fairness from the provision of business support grants in Scotland and ensuring each and every penny from the UK Government’s business support consequential funding is effectively utilised by the Scottish Government to protect businesses in this country.
- We are extremely concerned that we are now at a stage of irreparable damage to the self-catering sector, jeopardising the future of the £723m industry that boosts our tourism economy, and many businesses simply will not survive into the New Year.
- Other industries who may approach the Scottish Government to present their case for increasing eligibility requirements to include their sector may be in a better position than self-catering to adapt to the coronavirus restrictions. Self-catering has no such luxury: bookings have all but dried up due to travel restrictions affecting the domestic market and those outwith tier 4 areas are ineligible for support. No customers and no government support to tide over operators is an unsustainable position.
- The ASSC fully recognise that there will be a whole host of competing demands on government funding during these challenging times. However, a key component of Scotland’s tourism industry is in dire need of financial support and we therefore ask that the eligibility requirements are widened so that self-catering businesses across all levels can gain access to desperately needed financial support.
 Scottish Government, ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): Strategic Framework Business Fund’, 10/11/20 Url: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-strategic-framework-business-fund/pages/eligibility/
 Scottish Government, Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework business fund – information for local authorities, 19/11/20. Url: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-strategic-framework-business-fund—information-for-local-authorities/pages/eligible-businesses/