The Scottish accommodation sector is calling for ‘equality in Covid funding’.
Owners and associations in the industry have joined forces in urging the Scottish Government to reconsider their decision not to provide a £6,000 top-up grant to thousands of businesses facing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.
Individuals and groups working within this core part of Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector have submitted a 4,200-strong petition to MSPs, including rural affairs and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing and finance secretary Kate Forbes, calling for “fairness” in their consideration of the position of B&Bs, guest houses and other non-domestic rated accommodation businesses across the country.
The Scottish Guest House and B&B Alliance, which was formed in response to the Scottish Government’s decision to withhold the grant funding, has spearheaded the petition, working together to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the sector as a result of travel restrictions during the pandemic.
With 1,532 non-domestic rates guest houses and B&Bs in Scotland, supporting 3,000 jobs, the organisation says this latest financial blow comes as many otherwise viable operations face permanent closure and job losses as a result of the impact of Covid on both domestic and international tourism.
Fraser Mathieson, a member of the Inverness B&B Association and also of the new Scottish Guest House and B&B Alliance said: “This grant could potentially save thousands of jobs that are at risk within this group of businesses, thereby helping to save the wider tourism sector in Scotland, which depends on local accommodation to sustain it, and to sustain local economies.
“The travel restrictions brought in during October has seen trade drop to almost zero.
“Other local small businesses not nearly as badly affected as accommodation providers have received this lifeline top-up support and we have not.
“With tourism being so important to the Scottish economy we cannot understand why we have been excluded especially when the other nations in the UK are supporting our sector so well.”
The group says that, in addition, a further 17,595 non-domestic rated self catering properties, are also supporting local economies, but they have also been excluded from the top-up grant.
Even under Tier 1 to 3 Covid-19 restrictions, accommodation businesses, which are directly reliant on travel, have suffered significant losses.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The hospitality top-up fund is targeted at restaurants, bars, pubs, licensed social and sports clubs, cafes and hotels.
“Scottish Government resources are limited and this means we must take targeted action. We continue to call on the UK Government to transfer the fiscal levers required to enable us to respond fully to the needs of Scottish businesses.”
She added: “The Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) provides monthly grants for businesses required by law to close or to significantly modify their operations, including B&Bs and self-catering premises which pay non-domestic rates.
“B&Bs and guesthouses who pay Council Tax rather than non-domestic rates will be eligible for a new grant fund to be launched very shortly, equivalent to the value of SFBF payments.
“Since the start of the pandemic we have allocated more than £3 billion to support businesses across Scotland.”
She said that all B&Bs paying non-domestic rates are now eligible for payment of £2,000/£3,000 every four weeks through the Strategic Framework Business Fund.
B&Bs not paying non-domestic rates will also receive £2,000 every four weeks, to match what B&Bs on non-domestic rates receive.