SNP ministers accused of ‘sitting’ on nearly £67m Covid funding

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NEARLY £67m of Covid business support money has not been distributed despite the vital scheme being closed to new applicants.

Last night SNP ministers were accused by industry chiefs of ‘sitting on’ the unspent pot and risking ‘businesses, jobs and livelihoods’.

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In January, the Prime Minister announced £188.8 million in fundsCredit: Alamy

The money is the rest of the cash announced by Nicola Sturgeon for struggling companies forced to reintroduce strict measures after Omicron emerged in December.

This has led to the closure of nightclubs, a ban on mass events and restrictions for the hospitality industry, including social distancing and table service only.

In January, the Prime Minister announced funding of £188.8 million.

But so far only £121.9million has been allocated.

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The Scottish Tories have demanded that the remaining money be sent to businesses that “request” support.

Tory Covid Recovery and MSP spokesperson Murdo Fraser said: “This funding has been pledged to help struggling businesses survive Omicron restrictions over Christmas. We are now almost in April and yet an incredible £67 million in funding from Omicron has still not been allocated.

“It’s not because of a lack of demand – companies are still asking for SNP government support.”

Mr Fraser accused the SNP of ‘happily sitting on’ millions of pounds as ‘Scottish businesses, jobs and livelihoods are still at risk of being lost’.

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He added: “The SNP Government must urgently clarify why so much money has not yet been spent – and commit to reallocating funding to businesses that need it most.”

An update on the funds that have been provided by the Scottish Government revealed that there is £1.1million left in the Nightclub Closure Fund, £6.2million for taxi driver support and private hire and £7 million for the Freelancers Hardship Fund.

There is also £15.2m remaining to be distributed through the December and January Business Support Top-Up for Hospitality and £12.4m for the January Business Support Top-Up for Hospitality and hobbies.

This is how money goes to the wedding and tourism sectors.

Scottish Hospitality Group spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “The hospitality industry had a disastrous December due to Omicron restrictions, with an estimated loss of turnover of £1billion. .

“So it’s amazing that the government is sitting on tens of millions of pounds of remaining Omicron funding, while struggling businesses are still crying out for further support.”

He said the “deployment of government funding has been uneven with many companies falling through the cracks.

Mr Montgomery added: “That is why we would like to see any unclaimed funding originally allocated to our sector, returned to commercial bodies on the ground, as was the case in January 2021, so that we can direct the funds to access to these companies. who desperately need help.

But last night the Scottish Government claimed all the money had been allocated.

A spokesperson said: “Claims that hospitality businesses did not receive funding are completely untrue – hospitality funds were demand-driven and all eligible businesses that applied for funding received it .

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“For some funds, where business demand has been lower than originally forecast, the underspend has been reallocated to additional support programs including the £80m Covid Economic Recovery Fund. This was publicly announced at the time and in line with companies’ request to focus on recovery.

“While all funds are now closed to applications, payments will continue to be made and updated management information will be released weekly.”

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