I've been working flat out for weeks now to try and find a solution to the issue faced by traders at the Forge Market. Due to the nature of their rental agreement with the building owner, they had been unable to access Government support as many other businesses had.
Recently, the Scottish Government announced the new Tenant and Occupiers Fund, which was specifically designed to help business which sublet premises. I welcome this new fund, which will help countless business across Scotland to access coronavirus support. Unfortunately, many Forge Market traders have been back in touch with me to express dismay that they do not meet the eligibility criteria.
Earlier this week I had a telephone meeting with the Executive Director of Financial Services at Glasgow City Council and have subsequently followed this up with a letter to the Scottish Government's Finance Secretary. I'm keen to ensure that traders have a business to return to when lockdown is lifted, and I continue to work on this to find a solution.
Read my letter to the Finance Secretary, Kates Forbes, below:
Kate Forbes MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance
The Scottish Government
St. Andrew's House
Edinburgh EH1 3DG
Wednesday 10th June 2020
RE: Coronavirus Business Support Fund – Tenants and Occupiers Fund
I would like to thank you for the action the Scottish Government has recently taken to extend the eligibility for businesses that occupy premises where the landlord is the ratepayer. As I understand this has been beneficial for many companies across Scotland.
Since the eligibility criteria was published, however, I have had correspondence from several traders who are concerned as they do not meet these guidelines.
One trader has advised that they fit most of the criteria with the exception of being a sole trader and they accepted the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Before claiming this payment, the trader had contacted HM Revenue and Customs to ask if accepting the payment would jeopardise them accessing the Coronavirus Business Support Fund – at the time they were advised that it would not.
Another trader has raised an issue with the requirement to be a business registered with Companies House or run as a partnership as non-domestic ratepayers were not required to adhere to this. Further points made are that non-domestic ratepayers were not asked if they employ one other person or to be required to have a business bank account.
The Forge Market is an integral part of the local economy and I am keen to ensure that market traders are adequately supported through this difficult time. Whilst the Tenant and Occupiers Fund is hugely welcome and many will benefit from it, the eligibility criteria will mean that some of these traders will not receive support during a period of zero income.
In light of these issues, I would like to ask that we open a discussion to ascertain what actions could be taken to help these vital services, not only within the Forge Market but across Scotland.
David Linden MP