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Tough times for business as Ross MSP calls on firms to tap Scottish Government support package; COVID-19 hits Ross businesses hard as bid to soften blow made

By Hector MacKenzie

HIGHLAND businesses are being urged to check their eligibility for new support packages announced by the Scottish Government to help firms cope with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

The appeal comes from Dingwall-based MSP Kate Forbes whose Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency includes both the county town and the Black Isle.

Miss Forbes said she is aware of reported difficulties, including a drop of up to 60 per cent in takings when January and February figures for 2020 are compared with last year.

A £320 million package of support announced by the Scottish Government includes a75 per cent rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from April 1 and an £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19.

The package also includes 1.6 per cent rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing, she says, the planned below-inflation uplift in the poundage from April 1.

Also announced was a fixed rates relief of up to £5000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000, again from the beginning of April.

She said: “Clearly this is a very challenging time for Highland businesses, particularly those in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors across the Highlands. I have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence about cancellations and reduced bookings.

“Last weekend, the Scottish Government announced several new measures which I hope will assist many Highland businesses. Obviously things are developing very quickly and the Scottish Government is working hard behind the scenes to ensure help is available. The Government is working on the fastest and easiest way of enabling people to access the financial support.”

The Scottish Government has set up a business helpline number on 0300 303 0660, which is open from Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.

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