Edward Mountain MSP calls on small B&Bs to apply urgently for under-subscribed hardship fund

Applications for the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Hardship Fund opened last week but the Scottish Government has today confirmed that the fund is not ‘over-subscribed’.

Edward Mountain MSP has called on small B&Bs, of 6 guests or less, based in the Highlands to apply to this first-come-first-served fund as a matter of urgency, with fears growing that the £20m will not stretch far enough to help all businesses in need.

Pressure is growing on the Scottish Government to extend its support after the UK Government announced a £617m top-up fund to help B&B owners in England who were previously ineligible for the Covid-19 business grants.

The Highlands and Islands MSP has also challenged the Scottish Government’s eligibility criteria which states that companies require business bank accounts to apply. This issue has been a source of frustration for many small B&B owners who operate without a separate business bank account.

Edward Mountain MSP is calling on the Scottish Government to review the criteria to allow small B&Bs, who have all necessary regulatory consents, to apply for the hardship fund.

Responding to the statement, Edward Mountain MSP said: “As you will know the Highland economy is highly reliant on tourism and, especially our small Bed and Breakfasts. The Scottish Government set up a tourism and hospitality hardship fund worth £20m.” He asked: “As you have made clear many small B&Bs will be ineligible to claim due to the fact they don’t meet the criteria in that they don’t have separate business banks accounts, despite having all the necessary regulatory consents. So how many small B&Bs does she estimate this £20m fund will actually help?

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance replied: “That depends on the grants that are being provided and we’ve designed these schemes specifically to be as bespoke as possible. So the fund he mentioned, we talked about £3,000 grants, but you can get grants up to £25,000.” She continued: “the amount that they get will determine the number of businesses that receive it.”

The Cabinet Secretary also confirmed that the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Hardship Fund “is not over-subscribed”.

On the Business Bank account issue, the Cabinet Secretary said: “when we are distributing public funds we have a responsibility to ensure that we take appropriate steps to minimise the risk of fraudulent claims.”

Following the Ministerial Statement, Edward Mountain MSP commented: 

“The Scottish Government are none the wiser as to how many businesses their hardship fund will help and whether the £20m is enough to help all businesses that meet the criteria. This will be a source of concern to the tourism industry in the Highlands.

The Scottish Government must also review their eligibility criteria for this hardship fund. Small B&Bs, who do not have a business bank account but do have all the necessary regulatory consents to operate, should be allowed to access this fund.

Given this is a first-come-first-served fund, I urge small B&Bs and other struggling creative, tourism and hospitality businesses which meet the criteria to apply as a matter of urgency.”