Wholesalers Welcome Business Hardship Fund Support But Warn That It’s Not Enough

THE Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) has welcomed confirmation from the Scottish Government that some food and drink wholesalers will be able to gain access to a small amount of the £40 million support package announced last week for hospitality businesses affected by the latest round of lockdown restrictions.

Following the implementation of temporary tighter rules relating to hospitality opening hours and the serving of alcohol in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus, the Scottish Government confirmed that wholesale businesses and producers based in Scotland and supplying primarily short-life goods to hospitality businesses required to close or operate in a restricted way can apply to a hardship fund to receive payments of £1,000 or £1500 per depot, dependent on rateable value.

Colin Smith, SWA chief executive, said: “Our working relationship with the Scottish Government has allowed us to reiterate the inextricable link our members have to the hospitality sector and led to us receiving recognition for those members who will gain access to the £40m support package announced last week.

“While both the SWA and Scottish Government recognise it’s a small amount and without further funding from the UK Government, it is a most welcome intervention. We are, of course, still fighting for a bigger share of the UK Government consequentials announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier in the week as part of its local lockdown support package.

“The hardship fund announced for Scotland will support some businesses that remain open but are still significantly impacted by the restrictions, including those in the wholesale and direct supply chains of firms that must close. An upper limit of £10,000 will apply in total to any eligible business operating multiple premises.”

But Mr Smith warned that despite the £40m support package, the temporary hospitality closure in the central belt and restrictions across Scotland will have a massive impact on pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafes, with thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses potentially lost.

Scotland’s foodservice wholesalers lost, on average, 81% of their business when coronavirus closed hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses in March. “Unlike hospitality and retail, including major supermarkets making huge profits, local wholesalers were excluded from business rates relief and other financial support, and were forgotten about,” he said.

“There is a finite budget available for this new support and the SWA urges members to apply quickly when the application process goes live on local authority websites on Tuesday, 20 October. Applications will close on Tuesday, 3 November, at 5pm. The SWA will be available to assist any member wishing for help in the application process.”

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