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08/04/2020

Scottish Tourism Alliance Council Meeting

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing MSP, joined the Scottish Tourism Alliance Council call today.

This followed a call with Nigel Huddleston, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Mr Ewing acknowledged that tensions are high across the tourism sector, and that the mood is changing, but confirmed that the Scottish Government is committed to keeping people calm and doing all that they can to support businesses, communities and individuals. Much of the current discussion is focused on financial support packages.

It has been recognised that the existing packages don’t reach everyone that need the financial support. It was also noted that there are discrepancies between the packages in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK. There are many more businesses in tourism and small businesses in Scotland than there are in the rest of the UK. It is proving to be a significant job to navigate these issues. Whilst Mr Ewing appreciartes that people feel aggrieved that the grant allocation is only one per ‘business’, they are doing everything they can to tide people over and are distributing the funding “in the best way that they can”. They are acutely aware that funding may not stretch to everyone.

Gaps in support were recognised:

  • The technical exclusion of Furnished Holiday Lets due to declaration of income as property, rather than self-employed
  • B&Bs who are not on Non-Domestic Rates
  • Self-employed businesses who have traded for less than 3 years
  • Properties with a rateable value over £51,000

These issues have been raised with Mr Huddleston, who has acknowledged that they are pressing concerns.

There is still some funding available and Mr Ewing was confident that all the available residue should be deployed to fill the gaps. This is being considered carefully.

There are some difficulties in terms of the existing support packages: the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) – which are provided by the UK Government – and Small Business Grants from the Scottish Government that are being administered by local councils. In addition, everyone is aware of the issues concerning the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

It is hoped that some of these issues can be addressed, or funding could be diverted from, for example, the CBILS to a more beneficial scheme. The Scottish Government will continue to work on this with the UK Treasury.

There may be some flexibility introduced to the self-catering eligibility criteria based on representation from the ASSC in terms of the 140-day threshold, which may be impossible to meet in some rural / island locations that rely on a short season. The grant appeal process was also raised.

I reiterated today that we welcome the work that the Scottish and UK Governments have undertaken so far to support businesses and communities in Scotland.

Whilst I remain deeply concerned for our members, their mental health and the tourism industry in Scotland, I was heartened by Fergus Ewing MSP’s commitment to address the issues that have been identified, and try to extend the support to those businesses who are currently falling between the gaps. The ASSC looks forward to continuing to work with The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism and his officials to ensure that self-catering in Scotland is supported through this devastating time.

Fiona Campbell

Chief Executive

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers 

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