A trade body has slammed the “senseless” decision by the Scottish government to end the Strategic Framework Business Fund on 19 April, described as a “financial lifeline” for hospitality businesses during the pandemic.
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes said the Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) would be replaced by a one-off reopening grant.
“A day of reckoning is coming for debt strapped Scottish businesses and as politicians prioritise the electoral trail, they are needlessly cutting a financial lifeline,” said Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson from trade group the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG).
The fund previously offered grants of £2,000 (US$2,765) for businesses with a rateable value up to £51,000 (US$70,515), and £3,000 (US$4,148) for businesses with a rateable value £51,001 (US$70,516) or above.
Following the end of the fund, businesses will receive a combined final two-week supplement and a one-off restart grant to help them reopen in line with Covid-19 restrictions across Scotland.
Montgomery added: “The only certainty the SHG can take from this roadmap is that our strategic grant support will be ended on 19 April.
“It’s senseless and again highlights ministers’ lack of knowledge of our sector – 12 months down the line this is pitiful. Grants should be maintained until a business can return to trading normally.”
The cut to the SFBF comes ahead of the proposed reopening of outdoor hospitality in Scotland on 26 April, provided certain Covid-19 measures are met.
Montgomery said: “We are relieved that some hotels and restaurants will be able to open this month, but Scottish ministers cannot just wash their hands of the thousands of operators left stranded and unable to trade viably.
“These constraints are simply not feasible for most bars and the late-night premises that will remain closed for weeks if not months, and we are calling for a workable solution.
“We urge the government to appoint a senior representative with a business background who is capable of grasping the unique challenges facing the sector such as the level of complexity and scale of our industry and the punitive restrictions forced on us.
“For a year we have encountered a gaping chasm of understanding among officials and ministers, which has led to counter-productive policies that had no basis in fact, for example Scotland was the only country to impose a music ban.
“Now faced with a level system which is a not viable for many in level three, the survival of Scotland’s pubs, hotels and restaurants needs an informed champion at the highest level of government.”
Last month, the Scottish government admitted there was no evidence to support Covid-19 restrictions on the country’s hospitality sector, SHG reported.