Enterprise Agencies (Funding)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd December 2020.

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Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government what additional funding it has made available to its enterprise agencies, which have been supporting economic recovery during the pandemic. (S5O-04824)

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise have reprioritised activity to help businesses and communities and support economic recovery in their respective areas and regions. As a result of additional funding made available by the Scottish Government, more than £144 million has been distributed by the enterprise agencies through the creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises hardship fund—which I know that many of Jamie Halcro Johnston’s constituents benefited from, because they are also my constituents—and the pivotal enterprise resilience fund. The enterprise agencies are distributing a further £14 million through the hotel recovery programme.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

The cabinet secretary will be aware that the concentration of tourism and hospitality businesses in the Highlands and Islands has meant that the region’s economy has been hit harder than most by the pandemic. However, before Highlands and Islands Enterprise was given responsibility for administering the schemes, as she mentioned, it started the year with overcommitted resource and capital budgets. HIE’s chief executive has been clear that, in order to free up the budget to deal with the pandemic response, there was a

“need to remove or defer commitments” on their normal priorities.

Given the need to rebuild, will the cabinet secretary ensure that the extra responsibilities of the enterprise agencies are reflected with appropriate operational support? Does she now regret her Government’s cuts to HIE’s operating budgets before the pandemic hit?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

I always regret that a bigger pot of funding is not made available to the Scottish Government, which could then be distributed more fairly across all the public bodies, agencies and initiatives that would benefit from that.

Jamie Halcro Johnston makes a good point. Although we are still responding to the immediate crisis and helping businesses that are in distress, there is also a need to look at long-term recovery. Indeed, where businesses were looking for funding not only in HIE’s area, but in the other two areas, we have provided that funding for long-term recovery.

The member might be aware of, for example, the recently announced £100 million green jobs fund. The funding will help businesses to create new green jobs and support businesses in that pipeline. Our enterprise agencies will provide £50 million to businesses in order to do that.

More information about budget allocations will be announced on 28 January 2021.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions. I apologise to those members who wanted to ask questions but could not be taken.