|I thought I would provide another update to constituents on the Covid-19 pandemic and measures put in place by both the UK and Scottish Governments to assist. In this update I will cover updated health advice from the Scottish Government, information on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (including for the newly self employed) and the new Bounce Back Loans – open for small businesses now . This update is in place of my monthly e-magazine.
If at all possible please do not reply to this update directly but send any correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org please. The level of correspondence I am receiving is unprecedented and my team and I are working flat out to try and respond.
Previous updates can be found here.
Again, a huge thank you must go out to all key workers keeping us safe and well during this difficult time. Whilst it is great we are paying tribute to them every week by clapping the best thing the rest of us can do to protect them is to continue to continue follow government health advice on social distancing and reduce pressure on key services.
And a massive thanks to all those in our communities who are helping others. It is truly amazing and humbling.
I, and my colleagues in the Scottish and UK Parliaments, continue to support both Governments whilst scrutinising their decisions and posing the questions that constituents are sending to us from their experiences.
As you will likely be aware the Scottish Government has updated its guidance on the use of face coverings. It is now recommended that you considering wearing face coverings in some limited circumstances. The advice below is from the Scottish Government website:
“The evidence on the use of face coverings is limited, but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet. Examples include, travelling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a 2 metre distance from another customer. There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors, unless in an unavoidable crowded situation, where there may be some benefit.”
It is important to remember that wearing a face covering is not a substitute for the long standing advice on hand washing and social distancing. It is also key that if you wear a face covering, you wash your hands before applying and removing and avoid touching your face.
More information on this updated advice can be found here.
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
HMRC will this week begin contacting self employed people who they think may be eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The scheme will allow those eligible to claim a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months, and capped at £7,500 altogether. I have included an update on my website which should cover most of the detail including who will be eligible, how HMRC will contact you and how to claim. You can view that here.
There is also a scheme for those who have not qualified for the above due to the only recently becoming self-employed. Those who qualify for the Scottish Government scheme will be eligible for a one-off £2,000 grant. More information of the scheme and details of how to apply can be found here.
Further measure to help small businesses
Creative or Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund managed by the Enterprise Agencies with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland, is for small and micro creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of business rates relief with grants of up to £25K.
More information on this fund here.
Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund managed by the Enterprise Agencies providing bespoke grants and wrap around business support to viable but vulnerable SMEs who are vital to the local or national economic foundations of Scotland.
More information on this fund here.
Bounce Back Loans
The recent announcement of the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) by the Chancellor is welcome. Colleague and I have been calling for 100% government underwriting of smaller loans to get money to SMEs, and though it has taken some time to get to this point, BBLS should speed up lending to the smallest businesses.
Key features of BBLS:
• Loans between £2,000 and £50,000 will be made available to SMEs.
• Businesses will be able to access loans for up to 25% of their turnover
• The government will guarantee 100% of the loans and will pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.
• For most firms, loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval.
• There will be no forward-looking tests of business viability; no complex eligibility criteria; just a simple, standard form for businesses to fill in.
• The Chancellor also announced changes to CBILS, including removing the forward viability check, which banks were required to carry out to assess whether businesses would be viable in the future and therefore able to repay the loans. Banks now only have to check viability pre-Covid.
Applications for these loans can be made from today and more information can be found here.
My office continues to try to assist those who are falling through the gaps in the system in relation to supermarkets and food provision. In Edinburgh the Vulnerable Groups pathway exist to support Edinburgh’s citizens who do not fall within the Shielding Group (defined by Scottish Government), are not already in receipt of Council services or whose needs cannot be met through existing Council service provision and are ‘in need’ or ‘vulnerable’ as a result of the impact of COVID19. This number is 0131 200 2388.
However unfortunately this number cannot help with access to supermarket delivery slots and I will continue to press the Scottish Government for action on this important issue.
Morrisons have launched a new Doorstep Delivery service which is designed for vulnerable and older people and offers next day home delivery. Mindful that not everyone is familiar with online technology they have set up a call centre that people can phone and place an order from a list of essential items. These items will be delivered the next day by the local Morrisons store and customers can pay by contactless payment on the doorstep to minimise contact. There is no delivery charge, but there is a minimum order of £40.
Orders can be placed between 0800 – 1700, Monday – Saturday, by calling 0345 611 6111
PPE, Test and Tracing and Exit Strategy
There are still significant concerns being reported to me on a daily basis on the lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), testing, the exit strategy from lockdown, funding of the NHS, the social care and care homes infection rates, schooling and how the Scottish Government will lift the lockdown. I continue to take these issue up with the Scottish Government.
You can also read my recent Covid-19 related Edinburgh Evening News articles on care homes deaths, Scottish football and Edinburgh University.
Also, I continue to receive a large amount of correspondence from employees, the self-employed, employers, small businesses and freelancers with regards to the various support schemes in place. There are still too many people falling through the gaps of the schemes and I’m taking these up with the UK Government.
The Scottish Government has produced a paper on some of the conditions required to relax the lockdown and we are expecting a full paper from the UK Government on Sunday (although much of this will not be applicable to Scotland unless it is adopted by the Scottish Government).
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and it is vital that when this is all over there as many left as possible. If you own or work for a small business or if you are self employed please get in touch. I am more than happy to advertise any current services you are still able to run and in the longer term I aim to publish a local business directory and delivery to every household in the constituency. If you would like to be in it, please let me know.
I hope this update was useful. I will continue to keep you updated as new measures and guidance is announced. Thank you for all that you are doing during this difficult time.