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McArthur increases pressure on government to widen business support

Liam McArthur MSP.

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has increased pressure on the Scottish Government to help tourism businesses that remain ineligible for support under the Hardship Fund.

Many small tourism businesses, such as B&B owners, have been unable to apply to the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Fund because they do not have a business bank account, even though many had been advised by their banks to operate through a specific personal account.

During ‘virtual’ Members Questions yesterday (Thursday), Mr McArthur once again highlighted the problem and pressed the Finance Secretary for an update on how support could be targeted to tourism businesses who find themselves in this position.

In response, the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes acknowledged the concerns and agreed to look at how further support could be put in place to help businesses who have so far missed out.

Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented: “The various support schemes have been a lifeline for many businesses across the country at an enormously difficult and uncertain time. It is also understandable that Ministers want safeguards in place to ensure that public funds are being allocated appropriately.

“However, it is clear that requiring applicants to evidence use of a business bank account is causing real problems for many small businesses in the tourism sector.  Many were advised by their own banks to use personal bank accounts to run their operations. Having taken that advice, many now find it is denying them access to the support they desperately need.

“B&B owners are the backbone of an already vulnerable tourism sector in Orkney and, like other businesses, are facing an uphill challenge at this time. Yet, it is almost as if they haven’t been considered to be a viable business at all, which is deeply frustrating.

“I have been raising this issue with the Finance Secretary for a number of weeks now and was encouraged by Kate Forbes’ recognition of the problem and her willingness to keep looking at how this gap in support might be closed. So far, Ministers have been willing to widen criteria and make improvements to funds where needed. I hope the same can happen in this instance so that the hardship fund can continue to target support at those businesses that it was designed to help.”

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