Covid rates relief to be extended in Scotland | Extra £100m for female entrepreneurs in Scotland | UK sees sharp fall in spending

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Business Bulletin

One hundred percent rates relief in Scotland for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses is set to be extended for a minimum of three months, the country’s Finance Secretery has said.

Delivering the draft Scottish budget this afternoon, Kate Forbes also confirmed continuing commitment to Covid business support, and no further changes on income tax.

 Council tax frozen amid Scottish economic growth warning

Rates relief to ease the burden on businesses forced to close during the pandemic had been set to expire at the end of March. Any continuation beyond this latest three-month extension will depend on whether the UK Budget on March 3 triggers spending consequentials in this area.

Extra £100m for female entrepreneurs in Scotland

Alison Rose

Royal Bank of Scotland has announced an additional £100 million in funding to help support Scottish female entrepreneurs. The funds will be made available over the next four years with an ultimate aim of helping these businesses scale and grow.

The fresh funding is part of the £1 billion programme launched in January 2020 by Royal Bank owner Natwest following the findings of The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. With exceptionally high levels of demand driven by the Covid pandemic, that programme has exceed its initial UK target four years ahead of plan.

 Businesswomen feel the pandemic strain

Netwest has doubled its investment in the programme, with an additional £1bn of debt funding being made available. Of this, £100m will be targeted at Scottish firms.

A central finding of The Rose Review was that the single biggest issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them. Traditionally women are less likely to take on debt than male-led businesses and this can impact their ability to scale and grow at the same rate.

The additional £100m of funding will be open to both new and existing customers.

UK see sharp fall in spending

UK households have cut debit and credit card spending sharply and the proportion of workers on furlough has risen to its highest since July after new coronavirus lockdown restrictions came into force this month.

For a second week running a new official data series showed spending on credit and debit cards was 35 per cent below its level in February 2020, at the start of the pandemic.

The figures are based on transaction data collected by the Bank of England which the Office for National Statistics class as “experimental”, and are not seasonally adjusted.

 Record December sales fall for Scottish retailers amid Covid crisis

The ONS said businesses reported 17% of their staff were on furlough between December 28 and January 10, the highest proportion since July.

Separate tax office data showed a total 3.8 million jobs furloughed as of December 31, just below a peak of 4.1 million on November 11 during a four-week England-wide lockdown and well below a record of 8.9 million in May.

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