Edward Mountain MSP launches campaign to help small B&Bs unable to access Hardship Fund

Edward Mountain MSP has today launched his campaign, Help Our B&Bs, after the Scottish Government rejected his call to remove the requirement for B&Bs to have business bank accounts in order to apply for the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Hardship Fund.

The Highlands and Islands MSP raised the issue during First Minister’s Questions last week; however, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance has now rejected the idea, leaving many small B&Bs without hope of financial support.

The Cabinet Secretary wrote in her letter to Edward Mountain MSP:  “In order to reduce fraud risk in the administration of public funds, we consider that the inclusion of a requirement for enterprises seeking support through these funds to have a business bank account is proportionate and will help us to manage the risk of fraud, ensuring that more of these funds go to those that really need them.”

In his reply, Edward Mountain MSP called on the Scottish Government to urgently reconsider this policy and questioned the Cabinet Secretary’s business awareness:

“It is clear that your response highlights a distinct lack of business knowledge and understanding of the way the very fragile small B&B sector works. There is no legal requirement for them to have ‘costly’ business bank accounts and it is not a requirement of HMRC for sole traders. You, by your actions have ensured that many B&B’s cannot access the Hardship fund. This is fundamentally wrong.

I have to ask how you can say that you are satisfied that the Hardship Fund ensures “more of these funds go to those that really need them”.

I urge you to reconsider your position which is basically flawed and totally arbitrary.”

David Weston, Chairman of the Scottish B&B Association, commented previously: “Many micro-businesses run using their personal or joint bank account, and prepare annual accounts showing only their business sales and spend, which are submitted to HMRC for tax purposes.  HMRC are happy with this approach.  So if the Scottish Government make access to much-needed help dependent on having a ‘business bank account’, that will deny these small businesses the funds they need to survive.  We call on the Scottish Government to remove this obstacle, and thank Edward Mountain MSP for raising the issue with the First Minister”.