COUNCILS and businesses in Scotland are to receive a funding boost, Kate Forbes has announced.

Providing an urgent update on the Budget in Parliament, the Finance Secretary confirmed local authorities will receive an additional £275 million to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

Some businesses will not pay non-domestic rates in the next financial year, she added.

Following an announcement by the UK Government of £1.1 billion in consequential funding to be made available to Scotland, the proposed three-month extension of relief given to firms due to the coronavirus pandemic, the policy will now be in effect for the whole of 2021-22, affecting retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses.

Forbes told MSPs: "When I presented the budget last month I was clear, that if resources allowed I would extend 100% non-domestic rates relief for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors for all of next year.

"I am now in a position to provide that certainty to business, meeting the number one ask of the business community and demonstrating our commitment to supporting the economy."

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Forbes also announced a slew of other investments in the budget, including rates relief for newspapers, £120 for both mental health and affordable housing and £100m of support for people on low incomes, which will be announced "in due course" after discussions are completed with local authorities.

A further £60m each will be provided to support the recovery of the NHS and education from the Covid-19 pandemic, along with £45m extra to decarbonise heating systems – one of the Scottish Government's flagship environmental programmes – and £21.5m for Scottish Enterprise.

Local authorities will also receive £275m in the current financial year to cover pressures caused by the pandemic, with £40m also going to the reopening of schools.

Concluding her statement to MSPs, Forbes said: "I am sure that each party in this chamber will recognise something here that they have called for and I will continue to work with all parties in this chamber to help deliver a budget for the nation fit for these times."

The National: Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

Business groups have welcomed the announcement, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) saying it will help smaller firms survive the pandemic.

Andrew McRae, the Scotland policy chairman for the FSB, also pushed for larger firms who return the savings from the relief – as some major supermarkets have done – and the money to be used to give local businesses a "shot in the arm".

David Lonsdale, the director of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), also praised the "bold" move.

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He said: "The Finance Secretary has once again moved with commendable speed to back businesses which have been left reeling by the impact of coronavirus.

"She has clearly listened to our representations and has responded positively to remove the burden of business rates from retailers for the next 12 months.

"This is a bold and significant move and a vital shot in the arm for the sector, much of which remains closed and faces an uncertain future."

The Scottish Government currently do not hold enough votes to pass their budget through Holyrood and are currently locked in negotiations with other parties to secure support.

The Scottish Greens are urging ministers to take bolder steps.

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Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Government must go further to deliver a budget that tackles poverty and lays the foundations for a green recovery.

“The Scottish Greens have engaged constructively with government since it outlined its budget last month. We have made it clear that a much greater emphasis on tackling poverty is required. We’ve shown how this can be done by increasing direct payments to families, expanding the free school meals programme and extending eligibility for concessionary bus travel.

“As is so often the case it is those who were already living in poverty prior to the pandemic who have borne the hardship throughout the crisis and it is them we must support now.

“The Scottish Government’s budget also fails to adequately address the challenges posed by the climate crisis. We know for instance that rolling out home energy efficiency schemes is a great way to create green jobs, reduce energy bills, and lower emissions. Government should be investing much more in this area.

“Additional investment for local government is welcome. Councils have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic in our communities; supporting the most vulnerable, getting cash to local businesses and continuing to deliver vital local services. So, it is right that they get a fair settlement.

“Greens will continue to engage constructively with the Scottish Government, but we are clear that there must be significant movement from the government on our key asks if they wish to strike a deal with us.”