Scottish Government support for organisations in response to COVID-19

The Scottish Government has announced a number of measures to support organisations through the coronavirus.

This includes the Wellbeing Fund, access to business loans, business rates relief for organisations in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, and cash grants for organisations in these sectors. This is in addition to the measures that apply on a UK basis (see the COVID-19 information hub for more information).

Wellbeing Fund and Third Sector Resilience Fund

The Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund supports organisations across the third sector that are providing important services for people as a result of coronavirus. £34 million is open to applications from Third Sector Organisations,  providing grants to organisations of between £5,000 – £100,000. The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is now inviting applications from third sector organisations to provide vital wellbeing support to at risk groups.

The first round of the Wellbeing Fund is focused on providing support to organisations that can provide support to people who are facing additional barriers or have increased support requirements as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Round 1 of the fund closed for expressions of interest at midnight on 19th April. It is anticipated that the Wellbeing Fund will open again for new Expressions of Interest on 7 May 2020.

The Third Sector Resilience Fund (TSRF) is a £20m emergency fund for charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations working in Scotland. The fund supports organisations that already deliver services and products but find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The primary intention of the fund is to help third sector organisations to stabilise and manage cash flows over this difficult period.

Non-domestic rates relief

Similar to the Extended Retail Discount (announced by the Chancellor) in England, the Scottish Government has provided retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with 100% rates relief in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

To get this relief, a property has to be occupied. Properties that have closed temporarily due to the government’s coronavirus advice will be treated as occupied. Organisations do not need to apply for this relief, as it will be applied to their bill by the local council.

Charity shops are not listed explicitly but we understand that these are covered under the general shop category. Other hereditaments operated by charities are likely to include: museums, galleries, historic houses, sport charity facilities, theatres, public halls, and clubhouses, clubs and institutions.

Grant funding

The Scottish Government has announced the following grant funding schemes to help with non-domestic rates in Scotland during coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • A one-off £25,000 grant to the ratepayers of properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
  • A one-off £10,000 small business grant to the ratepayers of properties with specified uses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) or Rural Relief, or eligible for SBBS but in receipt of Nursery Relief, Disabled Relief, Fresh Start or the Business Growth Accelerator. *Update* Properties occupied by charities can now apply for this grant. The extension of the scheme is expected to result in an additional £31 million being made available to more than 3,000 small properties occupied by charities – including day centres, workshops and halls. It will apply to properties which are in receipt of any Charitable Rates Relief or Sports Relief, but are otherwise eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

New guidance has been published to inform a mutual understanding amongst local authority practitioners engaged in the administration of these grants. It includes specific information relating to each of the two grants. There are two tests of eligibility for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF).  The first is a rateable value test: the property must have a rateable value between £18,001 and £51,000.  The second is a use test: the property must be operating in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors and must be used for one of the qualifying purposes set out in the guidance.

The Scottish Government had previously announced that organisations with eligible properties could claim a one-off Retail, Hospitality, Leisure Support Grant of £25,00, if their rateable value is between £18,001 and £51,000. It was, however, understood to be a single grant per ratepayer. However, the Scottish Government has now confirmed that from 5 May 2020, if you have more than one property, you may be able to apply for a grant for each eligible property. This means you may be able to get a £25,000 grant on the first property. Then each additional property may be eligible for a Retail, Hospitality, Leisure Support Grant of £18,500. These additional grants will need to comply with the European Union’s State Aid rules, which limit claims to €800,000 per undertaking. This will likely be a single UK limit but we will be checking on the details of this. The Scottish Parliament has published an analysis of the support measures available in Scotland and England here.

Local authorities will administer the grants and will be responsible for delivering the funding to eligible businesses.  The Scottish Government will fund local authorities to make these payments.These grants require an application.  Application forms are available on individual council websites and must be filled in on-line and submitted through the council’s website (if available) or returned to councils by e-mail only. Applications can be made up to 31 March 2021. Councils will aim to make payments within 10 working days of the submission of a fully completed application form where the eligibility criteria have all been met.

Eligible organisations

The guidance sets out sets out the list of the qualifying purposes that properties within the retail, hospitality and leisure must be used for in order for their ratepayer to be eligible for RHLGF.  The property must be used for the qualifying purpose set out below as at 17 March 2020.  To qualify for the relief the property should be wholly or mainly being used for these qualifying purposes. Charity shops are not listed explicitly but we understand that these are covered under the general shop category. Other hereditaments operated by charities are likely to include: museums, galleries, historic houses, sport charity facilities, theatres, public halls, and clubhouses, clubs and institutions.

The list of eligible organisations is not intended to be exhaustive as it would be impossible to list the many and varied uses that exist within the qualifying purposes. There will also be mixed uses. However, it is intended to be a guide for local authorities as to the types of uses that the Scottish Government considers for this purpose to be eligible for relief.  Local authorities should determine for themselves whether particular properties not listed are broadly similar in nature to those above and, if so, to consider them eligible for the relief.  Conversely, properties that are not broadly similar in nature to those listed in Table 3 should not be eligible for the relief.  Local authorities may specify additional evidence required to determine whether a property does or does not satisfy the use test.

Access to finance

Coronavirus Business Support Grant (via local authority)

The Scottish Government has announced a £100 million fund to support the self-employed and SMEs. It will be broken into three separate funds for vulnerable SME businesses, the newly self-employed, and creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises.

Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund

  • Those facing hardship will be eligible for £2,000 grants through the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, if they are excluded from the UK Government Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund

  • Creative, tourism and hospitality organisations who are not in receipt of business rates relief can apply for the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund. Organisations with up to 50 employees will have access to £3,000 hardship grants, with larger grants up to £25,000 available to those who can demonstrate that level of support is required. The scheme is managed by the Enterprise Agencies in partnership with Creative Scotland and Visit Scotland.

Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund

  • Vulnerable SME organisations who are vital to the local or national economic foundations of Scotland can apply to the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund. Grants will depend on the specific need of the SME firm and will be managed by the Enterprise Agencies.