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Highland businesses urged to apply for support before Covid-19 grant scheme closes

By Alan Hendry

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North business leaders Trudy Morris and David Richardson are encouraging firms that may be entitled to grant support to apply while there is still time.

The Covid-19 business grant schemes, set up by the Scottish Government to help companies survive during the coronavirus crisis, have now paid out more than £66,000,000 to almost 6500 Highland businesses.

There is a small business grant scheme supporting businesses in non-domestically rated properties, a bed-and-breakfast hardship grant scheme and one supporting the newly self-employed. Highland Council has now processed over 99 per cent of the applications received since the grant schemes opened.

The deadline for applications is Friday, July 10.

Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: “With the Scottish Government's recent announcement of indicative timetables for phase two and three of the easing of lockdown restrictions, many businesses will be actively looking at the changes they need to make to their premises to allow their staff and customers to safely return.

"We would encourage anyone who may be eligible for support through these funds to apply if they have not done so already. This funding could make a real difference in helping businesses to swiftly and safely reopen as restrictions are lifted."

David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “As the largest business organisation in the Highlands, with the most widely dispersed membership, the FSB is well aware of the pressure that many thousands of businesses have been under right across this region.

"We also know from our own research that local economies in the Highlands and Islands as a whole are more vulnerable to the economic depredations of the virus than elsewhere in Scotland.

“Clearly, restarting the economy will take time, and the financial hardship that many are facing now is not going to end on July 15 [when many businesses can open again, including those in tourism and hospitality] – businesses have already lost vital trading months and visitor economies can’t go from zero to 60 overnight. Surviving until next spring is the number one priority.

“Businesses eligible to claim but who have not yet done so and who need the money should get their applications in now.”

The chairperson of Highland Council’s economy and infrastructure committee, Councillor Trish Robertson, said: “The recent announcements from the Scottish Government regarding easing the lockdown, allowing many businesses to reopen over the coming weeks, are welcome. However, many businesses may have to make adaptations to their premises at a time when they still have little or no income.

"In many cases these business grants could play a significant role in helping these businesses make the investment required to operate safely once they reopen.

“Despite this number of grants being awarded, we do know that many businesses who might be eligible for one of these schemes have yet to apply. The Scottish Government recently announced that all the council-managed schemes are to close on Friday, July 10, so we are encouraging businesses who have yet to apply to see if they qualify and to get their application in before the deadline if they do.”

Business owners can check the information on the council’s website to see if they are eligible.

On Monday the council launched a Highland business guide for shops and businesses to assist them with their plans to safely welcome back customers.

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