Coronavirus business support rules must be loosened in Shetland, demands MSP Wishart

More flexibility is needed to allow Shetland Islands Council to help businesses that are missing out on coronavirus funding, according to an MSP.

Shetland representative Beatrice Wishart has written to the Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes pointing out that £617 million is being made available in England via local authorities. Ms Wishart said he funding is aimed at small businesses with fixed property costs but “allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities”.

MSP Beatrice Wishart.

Ms Wishart said: “I am still regularly contacted by legitimate businesses who aren’t able to access the financial support they desperately need. The Scottish government worked hard to put together and open support schemes quickly, but businesses in Shetland are still missing out because they don’t fit the eligibility criteria.

“Historical rates anomalies and tenancy arrangements are real issues, and businesses operating from domestic or non-rateable premises are still finding themselves to be ineligible for the main funding streams.

“Many of these issues could be addressed at a local level if Shetland Islands Council had the flexibility to allocate funds to businesses that clearly need support but are falling through the cracks through no fault of their own.

“The Scottish government has been proactive in working to close some of the gaps that emerged. I hope that local flexibility will be introduced as a way of further achieving that.”

Friday’s print edition of The Shetland Times reported that The Shetland Times Bookshop was one of the businesses that had missed out on funding because the shop’s rates bills are based on two valuations, both of which were under the £18,000 limit set by the government. The SIC’s development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said the council had lobbied Ms Wishart and MP Alistair Carmichael over the issue.


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