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UK Government schemes hand out more than £2bn in…

UK Government schemes to support businesses recovering from coronavirus have paid out £2 billion in Scotland, the Treasury has said.

The loan schemes have assisted some 65,000 businesses across Scotland.

The bounce back loans scheme, which was announced in April, offers between £2,000 and 25% of the turnover of small and medium businesses.

The UK Government also guarantees the loans, which have no interest for the first year before the rate rises to 2.5% after 12 months.

Since its inception, the Treasury says that 63,469 loans have been approved, totalling £1.8 billion.

In the case of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, more than £587 million has been paid out to date, to 2,693 small and medium businesses looking for up to £5 million.

The UK Government pledged to guarantee up to 80% of the loan and will pay interest in fees inside the first year.

Ahead of a visit to Scotland intended to highlight the benefits of schemes put in place by the UK Government, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I’m proud that we have supported more than 65,000 businesses in Scotland through our loan schemes and we are committed to continuing to support them to bounce back and succeed through the measures set out in our plan for jobs.”

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Friday, he was asked if the furlough scheme, due to end in October, should be extended.

He said: “This has been a very difficult decision, but if you look at it from start to finish, we’ve got a situation where the Government will be helping to pay people’s wages for eight months, from start to finish, which I think is a very long period of time.

“And I think most reasonable people would agree that’s not something we can carry on indefinitely. In common with most other countries around the world, their versions of these are coming to an end.”

He added there are other schemes in place to help support getting people back to work, such as the job retention bonus.

This gives companies a £1,000 bonus if they bring workers back from furlough and keep them employed until at least January.

Mr Sunak said: “That will make a really big difference, especially to the small and medium-sized companies.

“But it’s also wrong to keep people trapped in a situation to pretend that there is a job to go back to.

“That won’t always be the case, and in those situations it’s better that we look forward and provide those people with new opportunities, and that’s what our plan for jobs does, here in Scotland in our support for apprenticeships, new training or the hospitality industry.

“All of that is designed to support new opportunities to provide them with hope at what is unquestionably going to be a very difficult time.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack also praised the UK Government’s interventions in Scotland, saying: “The UK Government is doing all it can to help Scotland’s economy through this pandemic and providing more than £2.3 billion in loans to 65,000 Scottish businesses is a key part of this.

“We are also supporting almost 900,000 jobs in Scotland through the pioneering furlough and self-employed schemes.

“This comes on top of an additional £6.5 billion funding for the Scottish Government to spend on public services and further support businesses in Scotland.

“The UK Government is working hard to help our economy bounce back and we want to see all sectors open again where it is safe to do so.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma described seeing the difference being made to business in Scotland as “heartening”.

Mr Sunak is the fourth minister in recent weeks who has visited Scotland, with his deputy Steve Barclay, Mr Sharma and Prime Minister Boris Johnson all making the trip north.

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