BUSINESSES will be able to “weather the current storm for a bit longer” after Kate Forbes announced top-up grants for hospitality, retail and leisure firms.

The Scottish Finance Secretary has announced larger hospitality businesses will receive a one-off £25,000 grant on top of the four-weekly £3,000 payment – while small hospitality firms will be eligible for a £6,000 one-off grant.

Ms Forbes stressed that the £25,000 grants are "considerably more generous" than the offer south of the border by the UK Government.

Larger retail and leisure businesses will receive one-off £9,000 grants on top of their four-weekly £3,000 payments and smaller retail and leisure firms will be given £6,000.

The move is to further help businesses hit by the national lockdown after the Scottish Government issued a 'stay at home' message for mainland Scotland.

In most cases, eligible businesses that have already applied for the four-weekly payment from the Strategic Framework Business Fund will get an automatic top-up.

For the majority, this top-up will be combined with the next stage of payment for the Strategic Framework Business Fund, due to go to businesses on January 25.

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Businesses that haven’t yet applied for either of these funds should submit an application as soon as possible through their local authority website.

Ms Forbes said: “Since the start of the pandemic Scottish Government support for business and the economy has reached almost £3 billion - more than a third of our total coronavirus funding, demonstrating our commitment to provide as much help as we possibly can to our businesses.

“As promised, this additional support for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses will be available this month, in some cases doubling or tripling the amount of support we are providing. Applications are open now and payment will be made this month.”

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She added: “Crucially this essential funding will also help to close the gaps in UK-wide support for these impacted sectors and our one-off support for larger hospitality premises of £25,000 is considerably more generous than the £9,000 grant on offer in England.

“I’d encourage all eligible businesses to apply through their local authority if they have not done so already. Of course we are acutely aware that this support can never compensate for the full impact on business, but we must work within the resources that are available to us, and we continue to respond to the evolving economic challenges arising from the pandemic.”

Andrew McRae, the policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, said: “It is good to see the Scottish Government increase the size of the grants that are available.

HeraldScotland: Andrew McRae, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses ScotlandAndrew McRae, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland

“This should help some smaller Scottish businesses weather the current storm for a bit longer. We’d urge all eligible independent businesses facing difficulties to apply for this help, or we face chains and larger operators swallowing up the bulk of the funding.

“The Scottish Government still has work to do to get previously announced support schemes up and running. And we must see help reach those that have had little or nothing so far, like many home-based businesses. Ministers must strive to make vital help easier to access and understand.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, added: “Shops and high streets across Scotland have been left reeling by coronavirus. These enhanced cash grants for retail business are a financial lifeline which will help non-essential stores through the current phase of being unable to open and trade.

“There isn’t a taxpayer-funded support scheme which can replace the potential losses of store closures, so it is very encouraging that the Finance Secretary has listened and responded positively.”