MORE than £3.6 billion has been used to support businesses in Scotland since the pandemic hit last spring, figures show.

The Scottish Government has made the sum available to firms to help mitigate the economic impacts of coronavirus, according to sums done by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice).

The independent centre provides information and analysis to MSPs and has been compiling material related to Covid-19’s impact on the country.

While some of the cash has been provided through Barnett consequentials – a share of what’s been spent in England – some of the spending has not.

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Colin Beattie, the SNP deputy convener of the parliament’s Economy and Fair Work Committee, has praised ministers for having gone “over and above” for firms.

The Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP commented: “Businesses in Scotland have had a torrid time in the past 18 months, with lockdowns outwith their control creating real uncertainty over their future.

“However, the SNP Scottish Government has stepped up to the plate, listened to the needs of firms across a number of sectors and provided funding and support wherever and whenever they have needed it.

“On some occasions the Scottish Government has provided funding over and above what has been made available by the UK Government. For instance, 100% business rates relief for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses will continue on until March 2022 in Scotland, whereas businesses in the rest of UK have had to pay part of their business rates since July.

“Ultimately though Scotland has not been able to implement the same financial measures as other similarly sized European countries as a result of being shackled to Westminster. We face the prospect of furlough being wound down when businesses are still finding their feet. Even with one hand tied behind its back, the Scottish Government has provided support for businesses, which is why we need a referendum for recovery to access the full powers that independence would bring.”

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The Spice research shows that the Scottish Government has made more than £2.7bn available in support such as grants.

Additionally, another £965 million been made available through business rates relief.

Last week’s Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures showed record public spending of £99.2bn, which includes that spent on health measures.

The total represents a year-on-year increase of more than 20% and revenues reached £62.8bn as receipts dropped, including the take from the North Sea, which plummeted by 35%.

Totals for non-domestic rates and VAT were also lower and Scotland’s notional deficit went up by 13.6 percentage points to 22.4% of GDP, the report said.

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Economy Secretary Kate Forbes (above) said that only reflected “Scotland’s position within the UK, under which 40% of spending and 70% of revenue income is reserved to the UK Government”.

She went on: “The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the need for fiscal reform and that the Scottish Government’s financial powers are insufficient to deal with the new economic reality.”