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Finance secretary accused of ‘abandoning’ businesses in the north-east

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes says there is not enough money to go round everyone.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes says there is not enough money to go round everyone.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is being accused of “abandoning” north-east businesses in their greatest time of need, as some are still waiting on financial support promised before Christmas.

Tess White, Conservative MSP for the north-east, wrote to the Scottish Government over concerns about payment delays to businesses impacted by the cancellation of festive bookings.

The finance secretary replied to Ms White and said the government is trying to get the funding out to businesses “as soon as possible”, but there is not enough money to go round everyone.

Pandemic ‘extremely challenging’

In her letter to Ms White, the finance secretary said: “I understand that the pandemic has been extremely challenging for all types of businesses and recognise the difficulties the updated guidance brings for many.

“Within the devolved powers and resources at our disposal, I am doing everything in my power to help.

“We are working with local authorities, enterprise agencies and other partners to ensure this additional funding reaches businesses as soon as possible – work began before Christmas with a view to getting payments issued at the earliest opportunity.”

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

She added getting this money out to businesses is an “absolute priority”, and said: “I am continuing to call on the UK Government to act urgently and provide necessary support.

“We do not want to be in a position where our public health interventions are in any way negatively impacted by a lack of available financial support.

“Whilst we want to help as many businesses as possible, the unfortunate reality is that the funding made available to us by the UK Government means that we simply do not have funding to provide financial support to all those businesses or sectors impacted by the restrictions.

“I recognise the need for funding to be distributed as quickly as possible.”

‘Shameful’ response

Ms White says the cabinet secretary’s response is “shameful”, and has left businesses on the brink of collapse.

She said: “It’s appalling that more than six weeks after the imposition of more Covid restrictions, businesses across the north-east are still waiting for the support the SNP promised.

Tess White, Conservative MSP for the North East

“Kate Forbes is shamefully trying to pass the buck onto local authorities who have been left with little guidance about how to distribute the business support funds.

“She seems content on watching on as north-east businesses face the prospect of collapsing due to the lack of help.

“The SNP are quick to impose Covid rules but far too slow in getting the money into the pockets of the companies hurt by their unnecessary curbs.

“Rather than focusing on their independence timetable, it’s high time the Scottish Government release this funding to those in need before it’s too late.”

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