Scottish Government set to exclude over 15,300 Self Catering properties in Scotland from accessing Top Up grant support and sector specific funding
We have spent the last 4 weeks challenging the frustrating prerequisite of the 'business bank account' along with other industry bodies and are as relieved as you will be to know that on Friday the requirement for this was removed from the Srategic Framework Grant. A needless hurdle in the way of accessing support for many businesses.
Here at Best and with the support of the CEO of the ASSC of which Best are
Trade members, we have also been challenging the roller coaster messaging
coming from ScotGov on the issue of Top Up Grants Independent of
Best, we are also property owners ourselves and fortuitously the Finance
Secretary also happens to be our MSP, Kate Forbes. Fast track forward to Friday
and Best was able to secure a zoom surgery meeting last week to try and unravel
the issue of the eligibility for the Top Up Grant, exclusion of all self
catering from the category of "hospitality" and to try and demystify
the promise of the 7million self catering sector fund, which all our properties
on Best, now find ourselves anxiously awaiting the detail.
Despite all the local authorities websites initially stating that the Top Up Grant would be an automatic addition to the 4 weekly Business Strategic Framework restriction / closure grants. This has now changed on most to differentiate that the self catering will have its own sector specific fund or at the very least that self catering is classed as "accommodation" rather than "hospitality" so excluded from the automatic Top Up by virtue of definition.
The assistance of ASSC in provision of facts, working detail and numbers greatly aided in prep for the meeting. 17,500 self caterers in Scotland, 4,900 plus in Kate Forbes's own constituency represents a very large part of the economic tourism benefit to Scotland and a quick calculation of the distribution of 7million is of prime concern, if we are to gain any "additional support" to weather this storm. The ASSC have been instrumental in lobbying the government to support the industry on so many levels, however what was apparent was that the sector specific fund being so limited in budget 7million (not all earmarked for self catering as this included some exclusive use venues as well) that it was very unlikely its proposed design to be accessible to all properties but rather be very criteria specific with limited eligibility over and above all the other requirements such as non-domestic rates, business bank accounts or bank accounts used in the main for business etc. At the time of meeting, the details of the proposed SC sector specific fund were still to be finalised and although the tight eligibility to be reached i.e awarded on the number of occupants each property could accommodate in other words impacted by the one household ruling (which was neither confirmed or denied at the meeting) the limited funding would clearly not reach everyone who would have received a Top Up automatically, had self-catering not been reclassified as "accommodation". The issue of messaging is a key contributor to the upset and confusion everyone has had to endure and it is hoped that our Finance Minister revisits her "additional support" and messaging to ensure that it reaches as many properties, quickly, easily and in equal measure regardless of size. The meeting was followed up with a letter illustrating these points:
16 Jan 2021
"Dear Kate, thank you so
much for making the extended time available to me and for explaining to me the
Top Up Grant and Sector specific funding considerations that are being still
under final consideration.
I am hugely encouraged to know that you understand that SC businesses (not now classed as hospitality) will face huge disappointment at a) not being able to access the Top Up Grant as first announced and b) have yet to learn whether the SC sector specific fund, will in fact offer all current business framework self catering applicants that lifeline of "additional support."
As we discussed, the message assumed by all until now has been that hospitality businesses will get a one off Top Up grant of 6K which will reach the majority of self caterers and any other business premises, cafe, restaurant, hotel etc as opposed to the 9k in England. I know that this is not the case but approximately about 75% of the sector still believe they can access this automatically if accepted onto the Business Framework closure or restricted business grants and this is all due to the messaging out there and the way it was both announced and delivered. It is on every forum, social media group, Twitter, industry led message boards and local marketing groups in Scotland.
For those that have understood the devil in the detail of the terms "hospitality" there has been very recent disbelief and despair and I hope I have been able to convey the reasons why the sector feel, rightly or wrongly there has been such "exclusion" which we discussed in detail. It is definitely a case of the messaging. It is very hard to find the much needed commentary online about the proposed SC sector specific fund and for those (and there are not many who choose to believe the automatic Top Up Grant won't apply) that have been able to drill down are holding their breath for this lifeline additional sector support due to be announced any day. I do believe that Scotgov are doing everything they can to get the funding to where it is needed but I also know first hand how this false hope will play out financially when mortgages and fixed overheads have to be paid and the toll of mental health of so many in the week to come as they realise that the Top Up Grant wont actually reach them as things currently stand.
In announcing the new sector support it would be crucifying for all these small businesses to discover they won't get the top up grant in the first place and then on desperately waiting for the SC sector specific fund to scrabble their way through the government links to apply for the Sector specific fund only to discover they are too small a business sleeping 1-6 guests which is the majority of self-catering in Scotland to be considered alongside the larger properties.
The feeling of "exclusion" self-perpetuates and I know that this is absolutely not what is intended and such a pain point for all. As a grass roots end user of the "additional support" package and having spoken to you about the challenges, messaging and parity for all businesses, I really felt strongly that as my MSP I wanted to take you through this journey from a constituents perspective so you are able to fully "walk the talk". Thank you for listening. The divide between what ScotGov says it is doing for "hospitality" and what will actually play out in reality are vastly different and it is this messaging that is causing so much friction and diluting the very best of intention. I do hope that all self-catering will receive a top up grant Kate as so much will now depend on this.
Best Scottish Cottages
*It has come to light this evening yet to be fully annonced on Scot Gov website that the Scottish Government's sector specific fund now called the "Large Self-Catering Grant" and the "Exclusive Use Grant" details still awaited, which will only benefit eligible properties that have been directly affected by the one household rule. ie sleeping more 7 plus. This means the fund will only be accessible to somewhere in the region of 2,175 businesses BUT will overlook the rest as only applies to larger properties, excluding some 15,300 self caterers who also require support. https://www.assc.co.uk/press-release-excluding-self-catering-from-top-up-grants-grossly-unfair/
SPEAK TO YOUR MSP
We will always continue to highlight the need for parity in the support measures, consistency and clear messaging for the sector in our communications but would urge our properties to raise the matter urgently by emailing their MSP's seeking clarity on what additional support / top up "exclusion", can be made available, in the hope that this injustice can be highlighted and swiftly rectified.
Find your MSP contact details on this link :