SCOTTISH business leaders have suggest the self-employed seek interim finance from banks as a government support scheme to deal with financial hardship in the midst of the coronavirus crisis may take weeks to deliver.

The Chancellor said that an 80% grant support for self-employed with trading profits of up to £50k will be accessible "no later than the beginning of June".

Self-employed workers will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,500 a month to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus.

Rishi Sunak said: "Our expectation is that it will be up and running by the beginning of June. We are going to try and do it faster than that.  But I don't want to promise something that we can't deliver.

"As I said before, this is operationally complicated."

He said they want to give people who have not filed their tax return, four weeks to do so and benefit from the scheme.

But Ian Blackford , the SNP’s Westminster leader said the delayed package of financial support "simply isn't good enough".

"People cannot be expected to wait until June to pay their bills and feed their families," he said.  "I'm also concerned for many people who may not be eligible for this scheme - including those who have become self-employed in recent months. They need support too and no one should be left behind.

"The SNP has been pressing for urgent financial support for self-employed people for weeks now. There is no excuse. Many measures could already have been introduced - including using the tax & welfare system to give everyone a guaranteed basic income now.

"Many self-employed people rely on a regular flow of income, including those from low-income households, and they need support now. The SNP will continue to press for more and quicker support to be delivered, particularly for those already in difficulty."

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses' Scotland policy chair, said: “Like many of these government interventions, it will take a number of weeks for this programme to deliver. Therefore, those who qualify should try their banks for interim finance if required, while doing what they can to manage their outgoings. This will be much easier said than done, but with help on its way many of the self-employed will rest a little easier.

"Thousands of people who work for themselves in Scotland will now breathe a sigh of relief. This scheme will provide lifeline cash to self-employed people, with help targeted at those on low and moderate incomes.


“We need to vanquish the myth that those that work for themselves are universally wealthy. People like the local handyman, cleaner and fitness coach will benefit from this support."

Official figures show that there are more than 320,000 self-employed people in Scotland.

The money will be paid in a single lump sum, but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.

Plans for 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers were announced last week.

The chancellor spoke after the total number of people in the UK to die with Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, reached 475.

Mr McRae said: “Throughout this crisis, we’ve found Ministers in Edinburgh and London sympathetic and approachable. These governments deserve credit for delivering support to business who face difficult circumstances that are neither under their control nor their fault.”

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy, said: “There are two priority issues now for the government on which we will be holding them to account. First, they must work with unions and business groups to make sure that nobody who needs support is denied it because of the way they are contracted or due to arbitrary thresholds.

“Second, to find a mechanism for getting this money to people as quickly as possible so that nobody faces hardship or has to resort to drastic measures.

“This is a big step for government and I appreciate how challenging it is, we are ready to work at pace with government to get this support to people and make sure nobody is left behind.”

Citizens Advice Scotland social justice spokeswoman Mhoraig Green welcome the move but said: “There is still more to be done, and the Government must continue to listen and act upon the issues that people are facing. The CAB network is here to help anyone who needs advice on any issue.”

Self-employed people will be able to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month.

Mr Sunak said the grants would be available to people across the UK for at least three months, and longer if necessary.

In all, 95% of people who earn most of their income as self-employed would be covered, the chancellor added.

Leading accounting and tax advisory firm Blick Rothenberg said the new scheme will be paid in a single lump sum in June, but it could be earlier if the Government can establish the process sooner.

Nimesh Shah, a firm partner, said: “It was always going to be difficult for the Chancellor to design a scheme for the self-employed because there are too many variables in play, and it appears that it was too difficult to consider those operating through a company.  

"It’s also another sign that the Government and HMRC do not favour self-employed persons using companies..."

Cabinet Secretary for finance Kate Forbes said: “I am pleased to see this announcement today and I recognise the difficulties in administering the system, but I have serious concerns about how long people will have to wait for this much-needed support.

“Many self-employed people are on low incomes with bills to pay and families to feed and they cannot afford to wait until June for this vital support. More urgency is required whether through speeding up payments or the benefits system.”