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Scottish Government announces £2.2 billion lifeline for businesses amid coronavirus crisis


By Scott Maclennan


MSP Fiona Hyslop.
MSP Fiona Hyslop.

SCOTLAND'S economy is facing an "immediate collapse in demand" so a package of measures worth £2.2 billion will be introduced to support businesses, according to Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

The lifeline business support supersedes the £320 million package announced on March 14 and includes an additional £1.9 billion from London.

Earlier in the week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £350 billion injection to back businesses across the country.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Hyslop outlined how the cash would be used – including a full year's 100 per cent non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism.

There would £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief, £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000 and 1.6 per cent of relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year.

Additionally, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to convene an emergency meeting of the Financial Services Advisory Board and local authorities are being urged to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways.

There will also be one major legislative change – the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill will be halted for now.

Ms Hyslop said: "The overall economic impact is clearly likely to be significant, though the scale and duration of the impact are difficult to predict.

"Depressed economic activity this year will have implications for the public finances through lower tax receipts and higher welfare spending.

"This will have severe economic consequences and we are treating it as an economic emergency, triggered by the enormity of the health emergency.

"I welcome the further support announced by the Chancellor and the Scottish Government will pass all consequentials to businesses to help them through this challenging period.

"We have already confirmed our intention to effectively freeze the poundage rate next year and today I can confirm that we will mirror those measures with a package of reliefs and grants worth £2.2 billion.

"That will ensure that small businesses receiving the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief will be eligible for a £10,000 grant. We will provide 12 months relief for properties in hospitality, leisure and retail and provide a £25,000 grant for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.

"We need to see substantial grant support and tax breaks to keep companies in business and people in jobs where possible, and a greater emphasis on supporting individuals and households."

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