Business ‘survival’ depends on quicker grants, says MSP

Donald Cameron MSP Photograph: Wullie Marr

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More must be done to get vital support grants to businesses quickly, according to Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The shadow finance minister in the Scottish Parliament said ‘many businesses’ across the area are still waiting for their applications to be processed by Argyll and Bute Council.

He said figures show 18.9 per cent of grants remained ‘unprocessed’ at the council with businesses desperate for the money.

But the council said it processed claims in 6.3 days on average – compared to a national target of 10 days.

Mr Cameron said figures for the Western Isles are ‘one of the worst in Scotland,’ with 31.1 per cent waiting on funding, while the Highland Council figure for unprocessed claims was running at 18.4 per cent.

‘We are now months into this crisis, but far too many local businesses in my region are still waiting for the support they need to survive,’ said Mr Cameron.

‘Small and medium-sized enterprises will be vital to our recovery from any economic downturn.

‘But if a significant portion here across  the Highlands and Islands don’t get funding on time, how can they hope to survive and save jobs?’

Argyll and Bute Council has received more than 2,700 applications from businesses so far and paid out £24.7 million.

In April, it said its success rate for matching applications with funding was running at 95 per cent, which was then 10 per cent higher than the national average for other councils.

A spokesperson said it ‘among the best-performing councils’ in terms of encouraging applications for business support and awarding grants.

‘We work hard to meet the urgent needs of local businesses and process claims, on average, in 6.3 days against a national target of 10 days.

‘To achieve this, staff from a range of council services have either refocused their work, or left their usual roles temporarily, to help deliver this support to local businesses at this hugely difficult time.

‘The Scottish Government business support schemes we are administering include rate reliefs, specific grants for small and medium sized businesses and a hardship fund for the newly self-employed.’