The Scottish Government will replicate measures announced by the UK Government to support business during the coronavirus outbreak, the Economy Secretary has said.
In a statement to MSPs, Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government will offer loans to businesses of different sizes in the same way as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday.
But she said there is “more to do” to protect companies across Scotland.
Under the new plans, small and rural businesses will be able to apply for a £10,000 grant, hospitality businesses will be given 12 months of business rates relief, and those with a rateable value of between £18,000 and £51,000 will be able to apply for a £25,000 grant.
Ms Hyslop told the Scottish Parliament: “We’ve already confirmed our intention to effectively freeze the poundage rate next year and today I can confirm that we will mirror the package of measures announced by the Chancellor.
“That will ensure that small businesses receiving the Small Business Bonus or rural relief will be eligible for a £10,000 grant.
“We will provide 12-month relief for properties in hospitality, leisure and retail and provide a £25,000 grant for hospitality, leisure and retail at a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.”
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) March 17, 2020
She called on the UK Government to do more to help companies rather than offering loans, claiming “debt is still debt”.
She added: “We need an agreed economic framework in place with the UK Government.”
Alluding to the financial crash of 2008, the Economy Secretary said: “We must think beyond that last crisis, this is potentially of greater order of magnitude and a different type of shock.”
Ms Hyslop also reiterated her calls for more grant support, tax breaks and a “greater emphasis on individuals and households”.
She continued: “In particular I am today asking the UK Government to reduce cost pressures on businesses, through for example tax holidays through PAYE, VAT reduction and the suspension of the apprenticeship levy.”
Both Scottish Labour and the Greens seized on support being given to individuals or the self-employed – a group Richard Leonard described as the “precariat”.
Responding to the Labour leader, Ms Hyslop said: “More needs to be done than simply tackling the business rates issue or the grants, however strong that package is, precisely because of the point that Richard Leonard makes.
“Clearly, the self-employed, freelancers as well as those who are on contracts that are precarious, have got real and distinct needs.
“Some of those issues will be able to be dealt with through the hardship fund… and there will be additional information made available tomorrow.”
Conservative finance spokesman Donald Cameron welcomed the pledge to replicate the UK Government measures, saying: “Can I acknowledge and welcome the fact that the First Minister has confirmed that every penny of that will be spent on business support in Scotland.
“Some of the actions are applicable UK-wide and others are not.
“Given that a number of businesses in England will now have 100% rates relief, many businesses in Scotland were expecting the same, so I was very pleased and grateful that the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the Scottish Government will replicate and adopt the UK package.”