NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted that the Scottish Government’s support for businesses benefits more firms than the system operated by the UK Government.

However, the First Minister also indicated she was willing to keep talking about what further assistance firms might need.

There’s been a row in recent days over the devolved administration’s decision to diverge from the Treasury on grants for retailers, pubs and cafes.

Last month, as part of a £350 billion package to help firms cope with the economic catastrophe caused by the rapid spread of coronavirus in the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered grants of up to £25,000 for struggling firms.

In England and Wales this grant is available per outlet, but in Scotland the money is handed out per business.

Ministers here said this limit would allow them to offer support to more sectors.

However, an online petition has attracted more than 1000 signatures from business owners dismayed by the decision .

Jon Sharp, who owns Kilimanjaro Coffee and has six shops in Edinburgh, will receive £25,000 in total, while his Cardiff supplier with four shops will be eligible for £100,000 in business support.

Greig Anderson, co-owner of two bistros in the Glasgow, said: “As things stand I am entitled to half of what two businesses in England or Wales would receive, which is very unfair when I am trying to keep afloat and carry on paying my not insubstantial ongoing costs during the Covid-19 crisis. I hope the Scottish Government will reconsider this approach and make sure we are as well supported as similar businesses south of the Border”.

Jackson Carlaw raised the issue at yesterday’s virtual First Minister’s Questions.

He pointed out that when the grants were announced by Sunak, Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, promised “that every penny of support funding would be passed on”.

Businesses, he said, had “planned on that basis”.

“But it then emerged that, in Scotland alone, grants would only be on the basis of one per business not one per business outlet. And that puts any firm in Scotland with more than one outlet at a huge disadvantage compared to those in England and Wales.

“First Minister, businesses in our high streets are dealing with the reality and not the theory of this crisis and they are saying to us, they need this support if they’re going to be there at the end of this crisis. They’re asking me to ask you, as First Minister, to think again.”

Sturgeon told the Tory leader that “every single penny” of the support that had come from the Treasury to the Scottish Government had “been passed on to businesses”.

She said there were some properties in Scotland who would get the grant who would not get it if they were in England.

“We’re also providing a range of support that’s available in Scotland and not elsewhere. We have provided help for businesses who have difficulties with water charges, we’ve provided a financial support package for the bus industry, we’ve provided £5 million for the seafood sector. And another £10m for seafood business resilience.

“We’ve provided funding through Creative Scotland for artists and those in the creative sector. We are providing money for a range of sectors that is not available elsewhere.

“So every penny has been passed on, we’re trying to do that in as fair a way as possible in a way that captures, and provides assistance to, as many businesses as possible.”

The First Minister told Carlaw her Government would “continue to talk to business organisations, individual sectors and businesses about what more we can do to support them”.

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