Here at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, we want to support our members in every way possible during the Covid-19 outbreak.
This page will be updated regularly with any new information that helps to support and inform businesses during this time. With the rapidly changing nature of Covid-19, we also encourage you to continue checking official advice from the Scottish Government, UK Government and City of Edinburgh Council websites.
The Government have recently introduced a new tiered system of Covid restrictions for Scotland. You can read their strategic framework here, and check here to see which tier Edinburgh has been placed into.
What the Chamber is doing on your behalf
Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic we have been campaigning for support for our members, and as part of BCC and SCC we made some key asks, and achieved some crucial policy decisions from both the Scottish and UK governments. Here you can see just a small selection of the policies we’ve been campaigning for. You can also read some examples of our correspondence with key ministers and policymakers, such as our joint letter with the Aberdeen and Glasgow Chambers of Commerce to request additional business support from the Scottish Government; our letter asking MSPs to reject the Scottish Government’s decision to delay the revaluation of non-domestic rates; and our letter protesting the UK Treasury’s surprise decision to end the tax-free shopping scheme. You can find these here.
We have also been taking action at a local, Scottish, and UK level:
At a local level:
- We have a weekly call with the CEO of the City of Edinburgh Council, and are in daily contact with key stakeholders across the city, to be able to inform you of any significant actions that will affect you
- We are speaking to as many of our members as possible to capture the impact this is having on their businesses. We are working hard to ensure the right support is available and can be accessed as soon as possible. This support is time critical for many businesses.
At a Scottish Government level:
- Through our engagement with Scottish Chambers of Commerce, we have regular direct links to the most senior levels of government who have requested updates on how businesses are being impacted.
- We have engaged with ministers and senior policymakers at all levels to make them aware of the support needed by businesses and the urgency of this support. We are continuing our dialogue with them to close gaps in support provision where possible, and to ensure their economic re-start and recovery plans meet the needs of businesses across our membership and beyond.
At a UK Government level:
- As part of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) network, we are able to feed information and concerns from members directly into UK Government. Our priority is to ensure that businesses get clear, actionable information at speed in order to take critical decisions – and that government takes action on the pressing needs of our business communities.
- Since the start of the crisis, BCC have been in constant contact with Downing Street, with senior Cabinet Ministers, with the Governor of the Bank of England, and with the banking industry. They are in the room, at the table, and we are making it clear that businesses and their employees need ongoing support.
- BCC, working with other big business support groups such as the CBI, IoD, FSB and others have been instrumental in securing many of the measures already announced such as the CJRS, CBILS and business rate/VAT/Tax concessions and deferrals.
Please feedback any relevant issues affecting your business to the policy team here at the Chamber, and we will ensure these are fed back to Scottish and UK Government by sending us at email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Various packages of support and funding are still available from the UK and Scottish Governments. This includes a range of funding, rates relief, and regulatory measures to support businesses through the pandemic.
Support for jobs
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended again, to the end of April 2021, and is open to all businesses – not just those forced to close. Businesses will have flexibility to furlough employees full-time, or on a part time basis, and employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 per month. This will be paid by the UK Government, with employers needing to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions, as was the case under CJRS in August. Claims for each month should be submitted by day 14 of the following month. You do not need to have previously used the furlough scheme
- The Job Support Scheme, which was scheduled to start on 1 November, has now been postponed, as has the Job Retention Bonus
- The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) provides support to the self-employed in the form of a series grants, each available for three month periods. For the next grant, which covers the period November 2020 to January 2021, self-employed workers can claim 80% of their average trading profits, up to £7,500. You must claim for the third grant on or before 29th January 2021. A second payment will cover the period February 2021 to April 2021, and the level of this is still to be determined
Job creation schemes
- The Apprentice Employer Grant (AEG) provides one-off payments of up to £5,000 for employers to recruit new apprentices, or to upskill existing employees who have moved into a new role and where the apprenticeship provides the means of upskilling for the new role. Funding will be available for eligible employers where the apprenticeship start date was on or after 1st December 2020, and will be available for starts until 25th March 2021 or until funding levels are exceeded
- a virtual Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme has been developed in collaboration with the Tourism and Hospitality sectors in order to ensure these sectors have the skills, knowledge and networks to recover when restrictions do lift
- Kickstart Scheme to create new, high quality, fully subsidised jobs for young people aged 16-24 claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long term unemployment. If you have less than 30 placements, you can apply through the Chamber
- The Youth Guarantee, a £60million package to guarantee everyone aged 16-24 a job, training, or education
- £10million has been promised for a range of measures to recruit and retain apprentices, including additional funding for the Adopt an Apprentice programme
- The £25million National Transition Training Fund will provide support to retrain for people over 25 who have lost their jobs or who are at risk of redundancy as a result of coronavirus. Find out more at Skills Development Scotland
Support with tax
- 6% rates relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year, and 100% non-domestic rates relief has been given to retail, hospitality and tourism businesses, as well as airports, until March 2021
- Businesses that deferred VAT due from March to June 2020 can now opt to pay it back in 11 smaller, interest-free payments throughout the 2021-2022 financial year under the VAT Deferral ‘New Payment Scheme’, rather than paying in one lump sum at the end of March 2021
- The self-employed have a separate, 12-month extension from HMRC, meaning that payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.
- The temporary reduction in VAT to 5% for hospitality and tourism has been extended to 31st March 2021 in the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan
Support with cashflow
- You can now apply for the Strategic Framework Business Fund: a series of grants for businesses required to close or significantly modify their operations due to Covid restrictions. If your business is required by law to close, you can apply for the Temporary Closure Grant, which provides grants of up to £3000 per business, depending on rateable value. If your business is required by restrictions to modify its operations, you can apply for the Business Restrictions Grant, which pays up to £2,100 depending on rateable value. Grants will be paid every 4 weeks, in arrears, for as long as restrictions last. Once you have applied, you will not need to re-apply if restrictions are extended beyond four weeks. Applications are now open and can be made through the City Council website. Find out more, including the eligibility criteria, on the Scottish Government website.
- One-off grants of up to £25,000 are available for available for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses. This will be combined with the next tranche of payment for the Strategic Framework Business Fund due to be paid at the end of January
- COVID Working Capital Loans of between £25,000 and £100,000 are available from Business Loans Scotland for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Scotland to help fund working capital and cashflow
- The Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS) is now open for applications until 31st March 2021, whilst the rules have been amended to allow those businesses who have borrowed less than their maximum (i.e. less than 25% of their turnover) to top-up their existing loan. Businesses will be able to take-up this option from week commencing 8th November; they can only make use of this option once. The BBLS offers loans from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover or £50,000, whichever is lower. The Government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months. No repayments are due during the first 12 months. For more details visit the Government website
- Under the new ‘Pay as You Grow’ flexible repayment system, payments on bounce back loans can be extended from 6 to 10 years, halving average monthly repayments. Businesses can also choose to make interest only payments or apply to suspend repayments up to 6 months if necessary. This was announced as part of the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan
- Through the British Business Banks, businesses can access government-backed, 12 months interest-free loans of up to £5m for businesses which turn over up to £45m under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). This is also open for applications until 31st March 2021
- For businesses with turnover of more than £45m, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) provides a UK Government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £200 million. Companies borrowing more than £50m through CLBILS will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan. This loan scheme is also open for applications until 31st March 2021.
- The Future Fund has also been extended for applications until the end of January 2020, and provides convertible loans of between £125,000 and £5 million, subject to at least equal funding from private investors. These loans are available for innovative companies that are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak, but have been unable to access other government business support programmes, such as CBILS, because they are either pre-revenue or pre-profit and typically rely on equity investment
- £185 million has been promised for new and additional business support. This will be issued on a sector-by-sector basis, with some of the specific funds already announced including £60 million for the tourism sector; £15 million for the wedding sector and its supply chain; one-off grants for mobile close contact services; a £19 million fund for taxi drivers; £5 million for travel agents; almost £6 million for coach companies and tour operators; and £1.5 million for visitor attractions. Hospitality businesses will receive one-off payments of £2,000 or £3,000 depending on rateable value. More detail on the package will be announced in the New Year.
- Other loans and grants, many of them sector-specific, have also been made available by the Scottish Government. This includes funds for taxi drivers, third sector organisations, childcare providers, and a Touring Fund for theatre and dance, amongst others. You can find more information on the various funds available here.
Help with Sick Pay
- SMEs with fewer than 250 employees are able to apply to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP – find out how to claim
- The Self-Isolation Support Grant provides £500 for low income workers who will lose earnings as a result of themselves or their children having to self-isolate. The grant is available for those who are in receipt of Universal Credit or other benefits, or may be eligible for Universal Credit but haven’t yet applied. You can apply here.
- Local authorities have relaxed planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways
- The Scottish Government has halted the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill, and delayed the introduction of Low Emissions Zones in Scotland’s key cities – including Edinburgh
- A ban on eviction of commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus until 2021
- The UK Government has published list of further regulatory changes that have been made to assist businesses through the pandemic. These include changes to rules around annual leave, competition law, right-to-work checks, and taxable expenses, amongst others. The full list can be found here
Other support packages
- In June a £230million Return to Work package was announced to help stimulate Scotland’s economy following the coronavirus pandemic. New projects include: £51 million for business support; £78 million for construction, including £40 million for regeneration projects and £20 million for roads maintenance; £66 million to kick-start our green recovery; and £35.5 million for digitisation, including justice and education services
- A green jobs fund will provide £50million for businesses to grow employment in low carbon sector, whilst another £50million will help businesses to take advantage of investment in the low carbon economy
- A summary of the various support and funding packages promised by Holyrood in the recent Programme for Government, including funding for infrastructure, green jobs, and better connectivity can be found here
- Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery: in June, a report was published by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER), tasked by Scottish Government with developing a post-Covid strategy for economic recovery. The report, titled ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’, outlines four pillars that it believes will be crucial for the Scottish Government to prioritise as it moves forward. Please find a useful summary of the report here, and you can also read the submission made to this group by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce here and you can read our submission here .
- The Scottish Chambers of Commerce have also produced a report with recommendations for the Scottish Government on the phased re-opening of remaining offices, which you can read here.. The recommendations align with the Chamber Network’s priorities of supporting our city centre and town economies and supporting the wellbeing of our employees.
- The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has produced an action plan for the tourism sector which can be downloaded here. Responsible tourism will be core to this – working with local communities and destination organisations is crucial as we look to rebuild a successful tourism industry which allows locals and visitors to coexist and ensure the Scottish welcome is at the heart of the visitor experience.
- “We’re Good To Go” launched on 25th June. This is the official UK mark to signal that a tourism and hospitality business has worked hard to follow Government and industry COVID-19 guidelines and has a process in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. To obtain the mark you must complete a self-assessment through an online platform – com. Once complete, you’ll receive certification and access to the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in your premises and online.
- The Scottish Government has established a point of contact for businesses interested in supporting the delivery of the vaccine programme – email@example.com
- Advice on actions that your business can take to mitigate the impact of the epidemic can be found here
- The Government has also published advice on childcare, sector-specific guidance, and a series of videos and webinars explaining the support available for businesses
- The UK Government have developed a useful tool to help businesses find support: https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder
- Scottish Enterprise also offers various sources of grants and funding, as well as advice
- You can also access a Covid-19 Helpline for Scottish businesses: 0300 303 0660
- And an HMRC Helpline: 08000 241222
In line with Government guidelines, the Chamber team are now working remotely, however we remain fully available and will continue to work with our members and key stakeholders. We can be reached via telephone and email as usual. You can find the names and contact details of our team here – if you need any help please do get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.
How You Can Engage
Please feedback any relevant issues affecting your business to the policy team here at the Chamber, and we will ensure these are fed back to Scottish and UK Government. They are especially keen to hear any suggestions you might have as to how businesses can be better supported, or if there are issues with accessing measures they have already announced/introduced.
Everyone at the Edinburgh Chamber is determined to provide support for our members and ensure we are at the heart of the region’s resilience during these difficult times.
Please stay safe and keep in touch with us so can we help in any way we can.