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North-east food firm boss fears being frozen out of Covid top-up support

Food supplier John King is demanding fair access to a Covid support scheme amid concerns he will miss out on funding for a second time.

The King Foods managing director wants the Scottish Government to review the criteria of its Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund.

It comes after a “top-up fund” was announced for food and drink firms who received grants in the last round of funding in December 2020.

However, we revealed last year the Aberdeen-based firm did not manage to apply in the last round, blaming a lack of information available and a tight nine-day timeframe to apply.

John King of King Foods, an Aberdeen-based company that supplies to hotels and restaurants, is struggling to access funding from the Scottish Government’s Food and Drink Resilience Fund.

Mr King said he is “very concerned” he will be denied further opportunity to apply for financial aid.

He said: “If you look at the corner of the north-east of Scotland, no company in that area got anything.

“No one knew of the funding being available.

“The Scottish Government has said there’s going to be a top-up fund so what we’ve said is we weren’t in the fund in the first place so are we going to miss out again?

“Nobody has come back with how to apply.”

It has been really traumatic for us.

John King, managing director of King Foods.

The Scottish Government confirmed last year that of 113 applications, including from businesses in the north-east, only 42 grants were approved, with none going to Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire or Moray.

Grants as high as £500,000 were approved for companies in regions including Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Midlothian.

There were also smaller successful applications from companies in Perth and Kinross, Shetland, Angus, Highland and Dundee, as well as some firms in the south of Scotland.

‘Hundreds of thousands lost’

King Foods supplies chilled and frozen food to hotels and restaurants from Elgin to Dundee, but has lost “hundreds of thousands” of pounds during the pandemic.

Mr King says business has been hampered by public statements such as those made by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over Scotland facing a “potential tsunami” of cases”.

He adds that the hospitality sector has been “hit so hard” by lockdown restrictions.

King Foods has lost “hundreds of thousands” of pounds since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The business owner said: “It has been really traumatic for us.

“In the last couple of years we’ve lost hundreds of thousands.

“Thankfully we had the furlough so we didn’t have to pay people off.

“I would like to see an even playing field.”

Mr King’s plight had prompted north-east MSP Liam Kerr to call on the Scottish Government to review the funding criteria.

The Conservative MSP said: “The SNP have left wholesalers like King Foods to fend for themselves at a time when they are desperate for support.

“It’s disgraceful the fund didn’t help a single firm from the north-east in the first round of awards and I’m astonished this appears to be happening again.”

Addressing the concerns later in parliament, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes confirmed the fund will open to “all food food and drink wholesale businesses across Scotland who meet the eligiblity criteria”.

Funding criteria

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are all too aware of the impact the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had – and continues to have – on businesses and on the economy.

“That is why we had announced the Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund which will provide grants for businesses suffering hardship as a result of coronavirus.

“We are developing funding criteria and guidance in collaboration with the Scottish Wholesale Association, and we will ensure this information is publicised widely.

“The guidance will also carry information to assist businesses who may require further advice on eligibility or support with the application process.”

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