First Minister’s Questions regarding Business Support Payments
Today, there was an exchange between Ruth Davidson and the First Minister on business support payments at FMQs:
Ruth Davidson touched on the latest changes to Covid-19 restrictions affecting the business community, noting that it was the latest instance of them being subject to changes brought in unexpectedly with little consultation. She said that the new funding for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses was welcome but highlighted a number of financial support packages – including December’s £185m announcement on support for business and £55m for sports clubs; November’s Strategic Business Support Fund; October’s £30m Discretionary Fund – and claimed that she had seen evidence that only £6m had reached businesses. She called on the Scottish Government to publish evidence of how much money had actually been paid out.
The First Minister replied that the Scottish Government would publish evidence “as the information comes through” as local councils were largely responsible for administering the funding. She highlighted that £600m of the £715m allocated to business support since October 2020 was already live, other funds would go live later this month, and “payments were flowing to businesses”.
Ruth Davidson followed-up to highlight that leaked documents showed that only 7 out of 30 business funds had launched and that FSB Scotland state that funding “is trapped in an administrative logjam”. She also argued that local councils were seeking more assistance and details from the Scottish Government in order to roll out the funding packages and asked how many funds had guidance issued from the Scottish Government.
The First Minister reiterated the point that most of the funding announced was now live and the remainder would be going live shortly but said she had not seen the leaked documents. She also mentioned a range of funding packages that had been recently announced, including the new top-up payments and support for island businesses. She confirmed that she had held discussions with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes about speeding up the process of local councils distributing funds.
Ruth Davidson said the First Minister merely listed announcements when the issue “was about getting money into people’s pockets and it is not getting there”. She highlighted a piece of constituency correspondence from a taxi driver who had been unable to gain access to any financial support and said that others – B&B owners, hairdressers, wedding organisers, and self-caterers – all of whom had been promised help but that the Scottish Government had failed to deliver.
The First Minister said she appreciated how important the issue was but accused Ruth Davidson of giving the impression that no money had flowed to businesses when in fact the Scottish Government had actually provided additional support packages. She said the Scottish Government would attempt to speed up the process of local councils administering the funds as much as possible.