Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain, today received an undertaking from the First Minister that the Scottish Government will consider relaxing eligibility criteria so that small B&Bs which operate without business bank accounts can apply for the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Hardship Fund.
The First Minister confirmed that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance is now investigating the matter and will correspond with Edward Mountain MSP to confirm if changes can be made.
Edward Mountain MSP has continually pressed the Scottish Government this week to help small B&Bs who do not have business bank accounts and raised the issue yesterday following a Ministerial Statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.
David Weston, Chairman of the Scottish B&B Association, commented: “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”.
During First Minister’s Questions Edward Mountain MSP said: “First Minister, small bed and breakfasts across Scotland who pay council tax, are struggling. Many cannot apply for support from the Scottish Government hardship fund, because they don’t meet the requirement of having a business bank account, which incidentally has never been a requirement of HMRC to prove a B&B business or a way to prevent fraud. Will the First Minister undertake to find a way of removing the business bank account requirement, which is clearly a huge stumbling block for small B&Bs applying for the grant they need.”
The First Minister replied: “Yes, the Finance Secretary tells me that she is looking at that issue.”
The First Minister further explained that the Scottish Government: “is trying to make sure there is some due process and good governance around applications so that, and I’m not suggesting people are fraudulently applying for money and certainly not in the sector he is talking about, but we need to have some way of guarding against that without on the other hand making it impossible for people to access these funds. So we are trying to strike the right balance there. As I say it is probably a less risk averse balance that we would strike now than we would in normal times but I will ask the Finance Secretary to correspond with the member once weve had a chance to look in more detail at that particular issue.”
Following First Minister’s Questions, Edward Mountain MSP commented:
“I am pleased that after my repeated calls the Scottish Government is now giving serious consideration to removing the business bank account requirement which is stopping many small B&Bs from accessing this hardship fund.
The Scottish Government must listen to the concerns of small businesses, such as B&Bs, who have operated for years and paid their taxes without having a business bank account. This has never been a problem for HMRC and therefore it shouldn’t be a problem now for the Scottish Government to change the criteria.
I look forward to the Finance Secretary updating me as to how the Scottish Government will ensure small B&Bs without business bank accounts will be able to access this currently undersubscribed fund.”