Business leaders have called on the Scottish Government to act to protect firms north of the Border from the economic shock of coronavirus by copying some of the steps in the Budget.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £30 billion package to get through the outbreak, including a one-year suspension of business rates for many hospitality and entertainment venues. 

He said the £1bn tax cut would save the firms that benefited in England up to £25,000 in 2020/21.

It prompted business leaders to call for similar measures north of the Border by drawing on £640 million of extra funding now going to Holyrood through the Barnett funding formula.

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We urgently need the Scottish Government to invest any extra funds into business support and boosting the economy, which faces huge challenges in the coming weeks and months. 

“The Scottish Chamber Network is ready to work with the Scottish Government on how these funds are best used to protect jobs and businesses.

“In the first instance, we call on the Scottish Government to support small businesses by immediately adapting the Small Business Bonus scheme to match the Chancellor’s pledges of support for small companies in England. 

“And to consider also suspending rates bills for retail, leisure and hospitality firms in Scotland as the UK Government has announced.’’

She added: “Unless mitigated, the effect of a coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks – coupled with ongoing uncertainty in other areas such as Brexit – risk heaping long-term damage to the Scottish economy, leading to further under-performance in terms of GDP growth and productivity. 

“Scotland needs investment in better transport infrastructure and swiftreductions in the cost of doing business.’’ 

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland welcomed the UK Government covering 14 days of statutory sick pay for employees off work because of the virus at companies with fewer than 250 employees.

Scotland policy chairman Andrew McRae said good businesses should not go to the wall because of short-term cash flow problems caused by the virus.

He said: “Many local Scottish firms already receive important rates help from the Scottish Government. 

“We’ll be seeking early talks with ministers in Edinburgh to urge them to investigate what else they can do, especially for businesses in hospitality and tourism, given the moves we’ve seen [in the Budget]. 

“If the smallest firms in England are receiving one-off grants to help see them through, then we need to see decision-makers ensure local businesses in Scotland don’t lose out.”

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said “urgent clarification” was needed on exactly what funding Scotland would receive from the Budget as it confronted the coronavirus.

She said cross-border “rapid joint engagement” was needed to get through the economic shock associated with the outbreak.

The public finances remained “very uncertain” in the short term.

She said: “It is vital our businesses, employees, health service and the most economically vulnerable in our society are all protected through this time, and this additional funding will help us in our response. 

“I will ensure businesses in Scotland are supported and will work with the business community to identify the most effective measures available to 
us, when we have more clarity on the funding available.

“We expect full [Barnett funding formula] consequentials from this additional funding and need urgent clarification to provide clarity for Scottish businesses and NHS Scotland to ensure we can respond effectively.

“The Barnett consequentials are in line with the assumptions that underpinned the Scottish Budget and Budget Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament last week. While this funding is welcome, our resource budget is still lower in real terms than it was in 2010/11.”

Scottish Tory MSP Donald Cameron said the Budget was “excellent” for both Scotland and the UK, offering protection to workers and businesses.

He said: “It’s essential the Scottish Government now steps up to take similar action to ensure people in Scotland are afforded the same reassurances. 

“The Budget also delivered an extra £640m in Barnett consequentials for Scotland, which is in addition to the £1.3bn announced last year.

“This is a Conservative UK Government that invests in Scotland, and is committed to economic growth and boosting public services. 

“If the SNP Government was anything like as committed, people and businesses would be in far better shape.”

The Scottish Greens said the Budget was “dangerous” because of its emphasis on building new roads and the continued freeze on fuel duty.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said the UK Government was putting “deregulated economic growth over people and planet”. 

He said: “Much more should have been done to protect those with insecure pay and rent from coronavirus disruption, and there were no serious proposals to tackle the climate emergency.

“Splashing £27bn on major road expansions and maintaining the £11bn-a-year freeze on fuel duty that has driven up transport emissions, this is a Government unable to break its addiction to roadbuilding or its devotion to lobbyists.

“The Chancellor said he was ‘mindful of the environment’, but it’s clear this Government is nothing of the sort. 

“Westminster is investing in the problem, rather than the solution, and the Scottish Government must not do the same with the £640m extra consequentials coming to Scotland. That means ministers following the advice of their own infrastructure commission and investing in low carbon alternatives.”

Scottish Labour welcomed new investment in the Budget but said it only proved the previous decade of austerity had been a “failed experiment”.

MSP Rhoda Grant said: “These measures go nowhere near to reversing the damage done to the economy and to people’s livelihoods by the last 
10 years of Tory rule. Scottish Labour believes additional [Barnett Formula] consequentials must be brought forward to the Parliament to discuss the Scottish Government’s spending plans. Additional funding from this Budget must be used to deliver transformational investment in the areas that need it most, such as local government and social care.” 

An Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) analysis produced alongside the Budget said Brexit had already depressed the UK economy by about 2 per cent of GDP, or £40bn.

It also said the money saved on EU contributions as a result of Brexit would be £4.3bn this year, or around £82m a week, far short of the £350m a week put on the side of a bus during the 2016 referendum campaign.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “What the Budget was missing was an honest assessment of the economic cost of Brexit, and the way in which Brexit limits the size of our economy and the amount we can invest in future prosperity. 

“The Office for Budget Responsibility says Brexit has frozen business investment and there are other big hits coming down the line. We would have more money to invest in boosting the economy if it weren’t for Brexit.”