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21/04/2020

Scottish Government Support for Self-Catering Failing

Scotland’s £723million traditional self-catering sector is being let down by the Scottish Government’s response to COVID-19, a new survey has found.

The survey, conducted by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), found that only 4 per cent of self-caterers who applied for business support grants have had their request for help granted by their local authority.

In a damning comment on the manner in which the scheme has been administered, Scottish self-caterers said that they were “deeply pessimistic” about the future of their businesses over the next year as a result of a lack of reliable support.

Struggling self-caterers, who have closed their businesses to support the national fight against the virus, reported overwhelming levels of disappointment at the inaction of both local and Scottish Government.

Self-caterers also reported that they have found the process of applying for vital aid cumbersome and bureaucratic, with the requested evidence of income being impossible to provide in many cases.

Operators also said they had not received any feedback whatsoever from local authorities and were being kept in the dark about the appeals process.

The self-catering sector in Scotland supports thousands of jobs and many livelihoods across the country, as well as generating hundreds of millions of pounds in tax each year, and will therefore be a fundamental part of the Scottish recovery effort as the country leaves lockdown.

However, should Scottish Government support prove inadequate or poorly managed, as many self-caterers feel it currently is, then the future of the industry, and of Scottish tourism, is uncertain.

ASSC Chief Executive, Fiona Campbell, said:

“That only four per cent of applicants have received their rightful support is a scandal and shows that an important part of Scotland’s tourism sector risks being left behind when it comes to business grant support.”

“The self-catering sector acted swiftly to close their businesses in response to COVID-19 and therefore needs support during this difficult time.

“The Scottish Government needs to issue proper guidance to local authorities to ensure that self-caterers can access the funds that they are entitled to.”

Some of the key findings include:

  • Self-caterers from across Scotland are experiencing severe difficulties in accessing business support grants from the Scottish Government that are being administered by local authorities.
  • Just 15 respondents (or approximately 4% of the total) have had their application for a business support approved by a local authority.
  • Self-caterers have reported confusion regarding the eligibility criteria from the Scottish Government, its interpretation by many local authorities, as well as the cumbersome and bureaucratic nature of the application process itself. Examples of this confusion include the inability to evidence 2019/20 incomes amongst many more.
  • Respondents have highlighted that some local authorities are not processing applications from self-catering accommodation until further guidance has been provided from the Scottish Government.
  • The overwhelming majority of self-caterer respondents have no knowledge of the appeal process – however, most have had no result from their application so have no grounds to appeal.
  • Due to difficulties with accessing support, a large majority of respondents are deeply pessimistic about the future of their business over the next 6-12 months.

Read the full survey: ASSC Sectoral Survey into Self-Caterer Access to Covid-19 Business Support

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