THE chief executive of bakers organisation, Scottish Bakers, has issued an open letter to Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland, concerning the level of financial support available to Scottish bakers.
Writes Alasdair Smith: “Scottish Bakers has been supporting and protecting the interests of Scotland’s bakery trade for over 125 years. The sector delivers around £1.4 bn into the economy, a quarter of all food and drink manufacturing. It employs c. 12,000 people in over 300 business of all sizes in communities around the country.
“The measures of support provided to businesses as the Coronavirus crisis continues have been welcomed by our members, but they are increasingly expressing their concern at the difference in application of the small business grant scheme in Scotland compared with England.
“Our members are clear in their belief that they are in receipt of less financial support than equivalent businesses in England, and therefore at greater risk subsequent collapse. At least 20 per cent of members have already closed their doors and are unsure about the future.
“One member affected by this discrepancy operates 12 shops in and around their local area and a central bakehouse; they employ 155 people from their local communities. The maximum grant they can receive in Scotland is £25,000. If their business was in England their maximum eligible grant would be £180,000 – a difference of £155,000 which goes a long way to preserving and protecting this business for continuity once restrictions are lifted.
“Another member, with three small retail outlets, finds themselves unable to access any grant funding because of the way the funding criteria have been drawn up. Many other Scottish bakers members are in similar situations and facing equal uncertainty.
“The issue at stake is one of support that is proportionate to the community and economic benefits each business brings. It is clear to Scottish Bakers members that a £25,000 grant applied to a business with 12 outlets is significantly less impactful than the same grant applied to a single retail store. Yet, a single store is arguably better able to weather the current storm by mothballing operations, than one with multiple outlets and the associated overheads that continue.
“For Scotland’s bakery trade to weather this storm and to come out of the current restrictions ready to bake the daily bread, savoury snacks and sweet treats we all love so much, urgent access to the same levels of funding that exist in England is necessary.
“Without such support, our members very real concern is that the fundamental character of Scotland’s bakery trade could change forever once restrictions are lifted. Our economy and communities would both be worse off as a result of this.”
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