SNP MP Douglas Chapman hosted a roundtable discussion at Westminster this week to discuss the UK’s crippling late payment culture and the “shattering consequences” it can have for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

The event was sponsored by Susan Love, the strategic lead for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in Scotland, and attended by representatives from ACCA across the UK, SMEs, and Small Business Commissioner Liz Barclay.

Topics covered included an analysis of the impact of poor payment practices on businesses, how these businesses cope with late payment of invoices and ways to minimise risk.

Chapman, the SNP spokesperson for SMEs, enterprise and innovation, said: “This roundtable discussion came at a crucial time for SMEs across the country, with many facing huge challenges not just post-Brexit and post-pandemic, but in terms of the cost-of-living crisis and a global energy crisis.

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“Poor payment practices can lead to shattering consequences for SMEs in terms of their operating costs, servicing debt, paying staff and suppliers and ultimately, can result in companies going out of business.”

“SMEs are the backbone of our economy but are struggling to survive in this volatile climate, with the Federation of Small Businesses reporting that in the last three months alone, more than half of the UK’s small firms have fallen foul of late payments. We can’t have a thriving economy, we can’t improve our prospects, and we can’t create resilience and security without a practical, solution-focused approach on tackling poor payment practices.”

Love said: “Managing cashflow has never been more important for firms, and poor payment practices, alongside crippling cost increases, is often a key factor in the cash crisis many smaller firms experience.

“As economic challenges for firms mount up, we warmly welcomed the opportunity to share the feedback about late payment from our members, and the firms they support, and look forward to working with decision makers to improve the broken payment culture.”

Barclay added: “We need more of these conversations, and we must get the bigger customers round the table to discuss this too. We talk about a cost-of-living crisis, but in reality, we are also in the middle of a cost of doing business crisis and many small suppliers are struggling with this double whammy.”

Graham Parker, director of Condies, chartered accountants and business advisers with practices in Dunfermline and Edinburgh, said: “I was pleased to represent ACCA and get together with Mr Chapman and other ACCA members and businesses to highlight small business concerns including late payments, payment practices and the wider implications of credit terms.”