I know the last year has been hard, with many businesses having to close their doors during lock down. As Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, I saw first-hand the negative impact that Covid-19 had on small businesses. That is why the SNP will harness Scotland’s innovation and ingenuity to create jobs and drive economic recovery.
In Government, the SNP has provided over £3 billion of support to businesses to help them through the pandemic. Now, as we begin to re-open our economy and society, many businesses will receive restart grants of between £7,000 and £19,500 at the end of April to help them prepare for re-opening. Retail, leisure and hospitality firms will also get 100% Business Rates relief this year.
To keep overheads low, Scotland already has the lowest business rates poundage in the UK, the most generous relief schemes and if re-elected, an SNP Scottish Government will gradually reduce the Large Business Supplement whilst keeping rates off premises for 12 months after occupation of a new build or of a previously empty property.
To protect our high streets, we will introduce a new £10 million Scotland Loves Local fund, explore the introduction of a new national digital sales tax to level the playing-field, with the proceeds reinvested in town and city centres. We will also publish a Retail Strategy and pilot local loyalty schemes alongside a national Scotland Loves Local loyalty scheme.
Self-employed entrepreneurs will be at the heart of our recovery and if re-elected, an SNP Scottish Government will introduce National Challenge competition funding of up to £50 million to the project or projects with the greatest potential to transform Scotland. We will also create a £50 million Women’s Business Centre to provide financial support, advice and training to women looking to start or grow their business.