Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th December 2020.

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The First Minister:

The allocation of the fund has been agreed with local authorities. Tomorrow, the finance secretary will give an update on the support that is available. As I said, she will set out details of additional support that will be made available to help businesses—in particular, during the winter period.

We want and are determined to do as much as we can to help businesses—especially in sectors such as hospitality, but also across the economy more generally—and to help businesses that might hitherto have fallen through the cracks during the pandemic.

We have in place a comprehensive grants scheme, to which the announcement by the finance secretary tomorrow will add.

I looked carefully at the figures that were published yesterday by the Scottish hospitality group. It is important to say that the levels of support in the different nations of the UK in some respects reflect the severity and impact of restrictions. In some parts of the UK, restrictions have been significantly more severe than they have in others, and there have been national lockdowns—which, of course, has not been the case in Scotland. That will be reflected when support is averaged out.

Nevertheless, we recognise that we need to do more and we are determined to do it. As I said in my statement, and have repeated, the finance secretary will set out more detail on that tomorrow.

More generally, today brings good news to individuals and businesses across the country. There will be parts of the country, and businesses in those parts of the country, that feel disappointed and frustrated. I acknowledge that, but in trying to strike the right balance we have to take difficult decisions. I have said all along that it will do businesses no favours if we move too quickly—although I understand why they want us to move quickly—because that can risk setting areas back and doing deeper and longer-lasting damage.

I hope that we will continue to see all of the country move in the right direction in the weeks to come, but we should not underestimate the challenges during Christmas and the need for all of us to continue to comply with all the restrictions.

Scotland is in a comparatively strong position within the UK. However, we cannot afford to take anything for granted. We have to continue to work hard to keep the virus under control.