Small companies can now apply for Brexit preparation funding

More Scottish businesses can apply for a share of £2 million to prepare for Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Companies with up to 250 employees could receive funding of up to £4,000 for activities including consultancy support, external training and international market research.

The Brexit Support Grants, worth £2 million over two years, were previously available only to exporters.

However, on a visit to a vehicle-modifying company in Glasgow, the First Minister announced the scheme would be expanded to all small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

During the visit, Ms Sturgeon met with Allied Vehicles staff and one of their manufacturing suppliers William Johnston, to discuss concerns about Brexit and how the two businesses are preparing.

The First Minister said: “Businesses like Allied Vehicles and William Johnston are critical to Scotland’s economy and it is unacceptable that they are facing this level of uncertainty so close to the UK leaving the EU.

“The Scottish Government is firmly opposed to Brexit and we continue to hope that it can be avoided, but with every passing day, the UK Government is getting closer to taking our economy off the cliff.

“Scottish Government analysis shows that all Brexit outcomes will damage our economy so it is essential businesses prepare for a range of scenarios.

“This funding goes hand in hand with practical support and advice and I encourage business to take advantage of this assistance.

“We will continue to work with our partners in the coming weeks and months to do what we can to minimise the impact Brexit will have on our economy and communities.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the scheme during a visit to Allied Vehicles in Glasgow (Scottish Government/PA)

William Johnston & Co. were one of the first businesses to apply for the grant and their managing director Sandy McEwan said: “Since Brexit was announced in 2016, we have been hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

“As a manufacturer we have found the Prepare for Brexit website a helpful tool for highlighting some of the issues Brexit may bring our business.

“Today, we are in the eye of the Brexit storm but, hopefully, this grant will help us to be in the best position possible to deal with potential changes in the business environment.”

Allied Vehicles chairman Gerry Facenna said: “Exporting can be a real challenge for us, given currency differences and much higher transport costs than our continental competitors.

“Despite this, over the past couple of years we’ve started to gain significant traction selling our wheelchair-accessible vehicles across Europe.

“We see huge potential to add another hundred or more jobs here in Glasgow through continued export growth – but the last thing we need is any form of trade barriers or tariffs, which would make it virtually impossible for us to compete effectively overseas.”

Small and medium-sized businesses can find out if they are eligible for the grants, which are being administered by Scottish Enterprise, by visiting the Prepare For Brexit website.

Nicola Sturgeon wants businesses to prepare for a range of post-Brexit scenarios (Scottish Government/PA)

Scottish Enterprise CEO Steve Dunlop said: “It is critical that Scottish businesses continue to assess the challenges presented by Brexit and take necessary action to safeguard their growth.

“Preparing your business for Brexit is about developing a flexible planning approach so you can adapt and be resilient across a range of potential Brexit outcomes.

“We are stepping up support with additional financial and people resources to make sure businesses have access to support that will help them meet challenges head on.”

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