We are giving small businesses the breathing space to focus on the bigger picture.
Non-domestic (Business) Rates
We delivered a below inflation increase in the non-domestic rates poundage in 2019-20, ensuring over 90 per cent of properties pay a lower tax rate than they would elsewhere in the UK. We also offer the most generous package of rates relief in the UK, worth an estimated £750 million in 2019-20. This includes the Small Business Bonus Scheme which gave 119,400 recipients £254 million of relief in 2018-19, with 100,000 properties paying no rates at all. It also includes the Business Growth Accelerator, which is unique in the UK and provides relief for new builds and improved properties.
Public Sector Contracts
Our support for SMEs ensures that they continue to win public sector work. We require Scottish public sector organisations to advertise all regulated procurement opportunities on the Public Contracts Scotland portal, making it easier for businesses to engage with their local contracting authorities. Our suite of procurement tools offer SMEs guidance and advice on all aspects of public procurement. We fund and support the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) in partnership with local authorities. The SDP are an independent business initiative who deliver free training, support and information to help SMEs win work and grow their business. Our support helped ensure that in 2018/19, 79% of suppliers awarded contracts through PCS were SMEs.
Recognising the negative impact that late payment can have on the cashflow, we aspire to pay bills to Scottish businesses within 10 days, succeeding 99% of the time in financial year 2018-19. We also include a standard clause within all Scottish Government contracts which requires payment within 30 days of valid invoices down the supply chain. This builds on our wider encouragement of prompt payment where suppliers commit to working towards payment within 30 days as the norm, part of the Scottish Business Pledge.
We are making finance more readily available to help ambitious small businesses to grow and export, unlocking up to £500 million of investment through the Scottish Growth Scheme. We are boosting access to finance through a range of funding options - microfinance, debt and equity. Help putting together the business case to secure investment can be obtained from Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway.
Small businesses can also access finance through the £150 million Building Scotland Fund which offers loans and equity finance for a range of products. This is a precursor to the Scottish National Investment Bank which has a planned long-term capitalisation of at least £2 billion over its first ten years.
We are helping small business adapt to changes, manage risks and overcome challenges. This includes partly funding the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), a non-profit organisation which exists to support and help protect Scottish businesses. SBRC offers a wide range of business resilience services and support.
For small businesses concerned about the impact of the UK leaving the EU, the multi-agency Prepare for Brexit campaign offers support to businesses of all sizes, regardless of their sector or whether or not they export. This includes an online self-assessment tool to help businesses identify their exposure to Brexit-related risks and opportunities while directing them to the appropriate support.
Valuable breathing space to pay debts is also available to small businesses which are partnerships, trusts and unincorporated bodes. The Accountant in Bankruptcy administers the Business Debt Arrangement Scheme which can give a business a maximum of five years to pay its debts while freezing all interest, fees, penalties and other charges.
case study: Helping Scottish companies prepare for Brexit
The Prepare for Brexit campaign was launched in November 2018 and is a coordinated, pan-Scotland offering to support businesses, regardless of size, sector or location. It’s delivered in partnership by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and Business Gateway.
The campaign aims to stimulate many more companies to take action in response to Brexit, supporting business and wider economic resilience in the face of significant change.
The website – www.PrepareforBrexit.scot – offers information and advice, a self-assessment tool, Brexit checklist, details of local information events, webinars and other resources. The Scottish Government has also made £2 million available to help SMEs manage a wide range of Brexit impacts, with funding of up to £4000 per company through the Brexit Support Grant.
The grant can be accessed by businesses employing up to 250 staff and can be used for activities including consultancy support, professional fees, external training, and international market research. To date, 165 Brexit Support Grants have been awarded for company projects totalling £600,000.
Since the Prepare for Brexit campaign launched, there have been 136,827 website visitors, 7061 completed company self-assessments and 498 enquiries from businesses.
One company that has accessed help and support is The Start-Up Drinks Lab. Hannah Fisher of the company said: “Restricted and more expensive supply of raw material will have a negative impact. Looking for a positive, we hope our new canning line will attract some of the clients that currently use canning companies in Germany and Belgium due to restricted trade.”
Health and Safety
We are supporting small business employers to comply with health and safety regulations. Healthy Working Lives offer free health and safety assessments to small businesses and a range of training courses which are mostly free of charge. The burden is also reduced by Working Health Services Scotland which gives free and confidential health support to individuals employed by companies with fewer than 250 employees.
Business and Regulatory Impact Assessments and the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice have made regulation more proportionate, consistent and transparent. These measures have helped small businesses by eliminating unnecessary burdens and ensuring regulatory principles are applied in a way which is consistent with delivering sustainable economic growth.