MINISTERS have been urged to ensure hundreds of millions of pounds in unclaimed business grants are used to help firms reeling from the coronavirus lockdown.

With just a week until the schemes close to new applicants, official figures show around £345m earmarked for business support grants has yet to be paid out by Scotland’s 32 councils.

Up to June 30, local authorities had received 98,435 applications for grants and approved 81,780 of them with a value of £921m.

The figures cover the two business grant schemes operating in Scotland - a £10,000 grant open to firms in receipt of various rates reliefs, and a £25,000 grant available to retail, hospitality and leisure properties with a rateable value between £18,001 and £51,000.

Applications for the grants close to new applications on July 10.

With the Holyrood Spring Budget revision showing £1.27bn allocated to the schemes, Labour said any unused funds must be used for struggling firms in a different way.

Labour finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “It  was right that the Scottish and UK Governments put aside funds to support businesses in this perilous time but with almost £345m yet to be distributed only one week before applications close, the potential for businesses to miss out on support is a clear and present danger.

“It is incumbent on the Scottish Government to ensure these funds reach Scottish businesses timeously in order to help prevent the closure of businesses and the damage to livelihoods and the economy that this would entail.

“If the Scottish Government is unable to pass all of the funds to Scottish businesses then it must ensure that the funding is retained by local government for frontline services such as Scotland’s schools.”

The Scottish spending is part of a £2.3bn Treasury-funded programme of business support.

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.