Scottish Conservative candidate Craig Hoy has written to Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance calling for further measures to protect retail businesses operating in East Lothian.
In a letter to Kate Forbes MSP, Craig seeks to make the Holyrood Government aware growing local concerns about elements of the system of business grants adopted in Scotland to tackle the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
On March 18 the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would institute a package of measures broadly in line with the rest of the UK in the form of Business Support Grants to rate-paying businesses which are administered through Scottish local authorities.
However, since this announcement it has been confirmed that, in contrast to the rest of the UK, firms in Scotland will be able to apply for only one grant allocation of up to £25,000 per business, and not one grant for each eligible property.
Craig, who is also the Councillor for Haddington and Lammermuir ward, says: “This situation has led to some local businesses with multiple properties warning that they are being disadvantaged in Scotland compared to their operations in the rest of the UK. The failure to match the UK policy puts local firms with more than one premises at heightened risk of closure during a period of immense trading uncertainty.
Craig draws attention to the plight of firms such as clothing retailer Wilkies, which trades in East Lothian and in a further 14 locations in Scotland. Karen Forret, Managing Director of Wilkies, says the grants could have offered a “glimmer of hope” for the business, but has now warned that the decision to restrict grants to one per business puts the company’s future operations and local jobs at imminent risk.
Craig warns: “Given the severity of the crisis confronting retailers and small businesses in Scotland I urge the Scottish Government to think again. It is vital Scotland follows Westminster’s lead by making the grant available to every eligible rateable property operated by qualifying businesses in Scotland.”
“The Scottish Government is not just short changing some East Lothian businesses. It is putting the future of successful firms and jobs on the line. When normalcy returns it is vital that these retailers remain in operation: they employ people, they serve people and they help maintain communities in East Lothian and across Scotland,” he adds.
A copy of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance is below: