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FHL: Carmichael Calls for Answers on Status of Self-Catering Providers

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for answers on the government’s position regarding support for self-catering providers.

Writing following previous correspondence on the issue, Mr Carmichael highlighted the gaps in support and the concerns raised by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers in an open letter sent last month, which remains unanswered by the government.

Mr Carmichael said:

“Self-catering providers are falling through the gaps in government support through no fault of their own. It is hard to see why the Self Employment Income Support Scheme cannot be adjusted to include them.

“I recognise that there are many demands on the Treasury’s time currently but the ASSC and self-catering providers in the isles deserve a response from the Government on these issues. They cannot simply be left in limbo because of a technicality in the tax system.”

He continued:

“If support is not forthcoming then we should not be surprised if our tourism industry takes longer to recover from the impact of coronavirus. Those who have put resources into holiday lets and other successful parts of the isles’ tourism offer should be supported like any other self-employed person.”

Full text of letter below:

I write regarding my concerns about the status of support for providers of self-catering accommodation in light of the economic impact of coronavirus. I have received representations from a significant number of constituents regarding this issue and I refer you to my previous correspondence on this in recent weeks.

There are a number of different factors which appear to be preventing support reaching self-catering providers. From discussions with the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers I understand that they have yet to receive a response to their letter to you detailing some of these issues on 27 April. The most notable and frustrating for those affected appears to be the rules relating to Furnished Holiday Lets, leading to those businesses which declare income on the property section of their tax return being excluded from self-employment support. They – understandably – consider this to be a technical rather than substantive reason for their exclusion from support.

While my constituency is not unique in feeling the impact of gaps in support for self-catering providers, the Northern Isles have spent years building up a distinctive and successful offering for tourists. Failing to protect these gains would represent a huge missed opportunity and risk long term harm to the economy of the isles and other regions of the UK.

I speak to several operators in different sectors who tell me increasingly that they see little prospect of getting any significant trade this summer and that the only way of surviving at all will be for them to remain closed until next spring. There are clear concerns made about discrepancies within the system and I believe that it is wrong for the government to discriminate on what often appear to be arbitrary grounds.

I look forward to your response regarding these concerns.

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