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Tourism Question on Financial Support

Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will review the financial support available to self-catering establishments, bed and breakfasts and guest houses. (S5O-05015)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism (Fergus Ewing): All self-catering, B and B and guest house businesses in level 4 areas that pay non-domestic rates can apply for grants of £2,000 or £3,000—depending on rateable value—every four weeks from the strategic framework business fund. Equivalent support for B and Bs that do not pay non-domestic rates, but pay council tax, is also available.

Larger self-catering and exclusive-use properties will also benefit from an additional £7 million fund to mitigate the impact of the single household restrictions. Support packages have been designed in response to business needs and agreed with sector representatives, but we will continue to monitor tourism support needs.

Willie Rennie: I am sure that the cabinet secretary knows that there is real anger in the self-catering sector that the sector-specific support misses most of them out. Around 15,500 businesses will get nothing. For the small number of businesses that will get support, the fund has not yet opened. Many of them are on their knees, and are considering selling up already.The cabinet secretary is generous with his time and is open minded. I suggest that he urgently changes the scheme before it is too late.

Fergus Ewing: Mr Rennie raises a serious point. I am determined that all businesses whose trade has been terminated as a result of the Covid restrictions and which have been unable to offer their excellent hospitality and accommodation to their guests are supported. The problem is a serious one. I am not sure that I recognise the figures that Mr Rennie quotes, but I am happy to discuss the issue with him, as I already have done.

We believe that the funding that we have put in place is sufficient to provide lifeline support. We previously provided support for B and Bs that did not have business bank accounts, and we are extending the support to B and Bs that do not pay business rates, as I explained in my response to Mr Halcro Johnston. We paid support to self-catering properties last year. There is also the continuing entitlement to a payment of £2,000 or £3,000 every four weeks. As with all the schemes, that is designed to provide lifeline support to get people through.

I hope that we can safely resume the staycation market. If we can do so, many self-catering properties, B and Bs and guesthouses will be well placed to continue to offer an excellent experience. They did that last summer; indeed, self-catering units and caravan parks were allowed to open slightly earlier than the rest of the tourism sector.

I accept that those businesses are the backbone of our tourism sector, especially in rural Scotland. They must get sufficient support. I constantly review whether we are achieving that objective, working closely with people such as Fiona Campbell of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers and David Weston of the Bed and Breakfast Association. I will continue that work.


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