Ferhan Ashiq

The Fed’s president in Scotland, Ferhan Ashiq

The Scottish government minister responsible for retail has encouraged independent retailers to make applications for grants from a new £80m support fund.

In a letter to Ferhan Ashiq, the president of the Fed (National Federation of Retail Newsagents) in Scotland, Tom Arthur MSP highlighted the Covid Economic Recovery Fund for businesses and communities which has been handed to local government.

The minister, who will be the headline speaker at the Fed’s Scottish conference at Glasgow’s Crown Plaza Hotel on March 29, said: “The fund will be administered by local authorities who have full discretion on how the funding will be allocated. Your members may wish to contact their local authorities to enquire whether there may be any support available for them.”

Ashiq recently wrote to Arthur to ask for the government to provide grants to improve CCTV in smaller stores in an effort to combat thefts and attacks in shops.

However, the minister confirmed that the Scottish government has no plans to offer security grants to retailers.

Ashiq said: “While it is disappointing that our request for help with boosting security systems in independent stores has been denied, it is pleasing to see that the Scottish government is at least offering some support in the form of the £80m support fund.

“I urge our members to contact their local council to apply for funding from this pot as soon as possible to help them recover from the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.”

In his reply to Ashiq, Arthur said: “I fully understand your disappointment in the decision not to support your request of the Scottish government to provide £250,000 to provide CCTV grants for independent retailers.

“As the cabinet secretary for finance said in presenting the draft 2022-23 Budget, this Budget cannot deliver the resources that all of our partners will want.

“Having already provided over £4.4bn in business support, which is almost half a billion pounds more than the funding we received from the UK Government for this purpose, there is simply no available funding within existing resources from which your request can be considered.”

Arthur went on to highlight continuing support for retail businesses in the form of Covid non-domestic rates relief, which has saved businesses around £1.6bn in reduced rates bills since April 2020.

He added: “We are preventing a cliff edge return to full liability for businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors on March 31, 2022, by continuing relief at 50% for the first three months of 2022-23, capped at £27,500 per ratepayer, which will help businesses get back on their feet.

“In addition, the Small Business Bonus Scheme has been maintained throughout 2022-23, taking over 111,000 properties out of rates altogether.”