Business Support

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd December 2020.

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Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

I will come to that in a minute. If Gillian Martin were to read out the motion, we would hear that there are £2.2 billion-worth of unallocated resources from Barnett consequentials that the Government can spend. It is right that public health is protected—of course it is right that lives are put before commerce—but there must also be proportionate mitigation for business.

When the £30 million discretionary fund was announced by the First Minister two weeks ago, it was to assist businesses that were falling through the gaps of existing support schemes—freelancers, businesses without premises, taxi drivers, people who had recently taken the plunge to start up a new business and businesses in supply chains. I have to report that I have been contacted by taxi drivers and other businesses that are hanging by a thread and which have been scouring local authority websites for information on how they can get help. However, they are being told that local authorities are waiting for Scottish Government guidance. Because there is no guidance, the funding is not yet open for applications. Because there is no confirmation date in sight, there is no support available—so, still they wait.

What about the £2.2 billion-worth of unallocated Barnett consequentials? What about all the small businesses that are now in dire straits and need action? What about all the working women and men whose jobs are at risk? The Government must outline to Parliament and the people how that funding will be allocated to save businesses and jobs.

We also want the Scottish Government to consider the long term and to work with businesses and trade unions on that.

We all know that we cannot go back to austerity, to a deep and long recession, to crisis and contraction or to business as usual. We cannot go back to an economy that is run in the interests of the powerful and most wealthy people.

Instead of small businesses, the middle class and the working people of this country falling further behind, they should get a decent standard of living and a better share of the wealth that they create. We need a vision of an economy that serves the people, rather than a vision in which people simply serve the economy.

We need an economy in which there is a rebalancing of power between big business and small business, between landlord and tenant, between men and women and between hirer and worker. We need that so that we give people meaningful work and decent pay, and so that we do not have more division and polarization.

We need an economy in which the politics of hope take over from the economics of despair, in which our Government listens to people’s priorities, answers to businesses in need, understands the importance of job and community, hears the voice of working people and their trade unions loud and clear, and is prepared to act for the common good.

I move,

That the Parliament notes that 5 December 2020 is Small Business Saturday and that small businesses, including those in the hospitality sector, are an irreplaceable source of jobs and community across Scotland; believes that many of these businesses are at risk because of COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of financial support, and calls on the Scottish Government to urgently outline how it will allocate the remaining £2.2 billion of Barnett consequentials to provide this support and save businesses and jobs, and work with businesses and trade unions to devise a sustainable long-term plan to support small businesses.