Hardship fund boost not enough for wholesalers – Smith

News that some wholesalers in Scotland will have access to a new £40 million support package has been welcomed by the Scottish Wholesale Association – but they warn it’s not enough.

The rules surrounding eligibility for the hardship fund targeted towards hospitality businesses impacted by Covid-19 restrictions north of the border say wholesalers qualify to claim between £1,000 and £1,500 per depot.

But while that’s something not previously available to foodservice wholesalers affected by hospitality closures, SWA Chief Executive warns it’s not nearly enough for struggling businesses.

“Our working relationship with the Scottish Government has allowed us to reiterate the inextricable link our members have to the hospitality sector and led to us receiving recognition for those members who will gain access to the £40m support package announced last week,” said Smith.

“While both the SWA and Scottish Government recognise it’s a small amount and without further funding from the UK Government, it is a most welcome intervention. We are, of course, still fighting for a bigger share of the UK Government consequentials announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier in the week as part of its local lockdown support package.

“The hardship fund announced for Scotland will support some businesses that remain open but are still significantly impacted by the restrictions, including those in the wholesale and direct supply chains of firms that must close. An upper limit of £10,000 will apply in total to any eligible business operating multiple premises.”

Despite the boost, businesses supplying pubs, restaurants and other venues still look likely to face a big impact to their bottom line following hospitality closures across the central belt of Scotland, with Scottish foodservice wholesalers recording an average drop of 81% of their business when lockdown first hit back in March.

“Unlike hospitality and retail, including major supermarkets making huge profits, local wholesalers were excluded from business rates relief and other financial support, and were forgotten about,” Smith added.

“There is a finite budget available for this new support and the SWA urges members to apply quickly when the application process goes live on local authority websites on Tuesday, 20 October. Applications will close on Tuesday, 3 November, at 5pm. The SWA will be available to assist any member wishing for help in the application process.”

Colin Smith coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice Government hospitality Rishi Sunak Scotland Wholesalers