A new £80m Covid Economic Recovery Fund has been announced by the Scottish Government, targeting support for businesses as the nation attempts to move into a new phase of pandemic recovery.
Councils will have the flexibility to target support either using existing schemes like Scotland Loves Local, Business Improvement Districts, or place-based investment programmes, or individual local authority grant schemes. Councils will also to able to use the funding to support low income households.
In addition, a further £3m has been allocated to the City Centre Recovery Fund, which supports sustainable economic recovery for seven city local authority areas including by driving footfall to businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
The Scottish Government will tomorrow publish a revised Strategic Framework which will set out an updated approach to managing and recovering from Covid-19.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with business owners in Edinburgh City Centre to discuss how support provided to date had helped drive up footfall despite the impact of the pandemic, and how they anticipated this latest funding could further those efforts during the recovery phase.
Sturgeon said: “This fund allows councils to consider the needs of local businesses, communities and households and to target support to maximise economic recovery in their areas.
“We know public health measures which were necessary to control Covid-19 have had a severe economic impact and, since the start of the pandemic, businesses have benefitted from more than £4.4bn in support from the Scottish Government.
“Our updated Strategic Framework, which I will set out to Parliament tomorrow, will support resilience in communities across Scotland by outlining robust plans to prepare for possible new variants or other future emergencies, should we need to act to protect public health.”
The Covid Economic Recovery Fund is made up of the remaining funding from the £375m Omicron business support package and underspend from some of the funding allocated, where business demand has been less than initially forecast.
The £3m was announced on 10 February by the Finance Secretary for the City Centre Recovery Fund. A further £3m has now been allocated bringing the total for the City Centre Recovery Fund to £6m allocated from the overall support package.
A further £3.3m for the childcare sector and £2.4m for the outbound travel sector has also been allocated from the package.
Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland’s policy chair, said: “Independent businesses across Scotland will take heart when they learn that cash has been allocated to accelerate local recovery – but this funding can’t linger in council bank accounts and must be spent on projects which really benefit the smaller businesses on our doorsteps.
“Just because restrictions are being lifted, that doesn’t mean that recovery is assured,” he continued, adding: “Governments in Edinburgh and London must look at ways to relieve the immense pressure that rising overheads are putting on firms, and at the very least avoid making matters worse.”
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