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Covid-19 Update for Scotland’s digital tech sector –16 April 2020

After a multitude of announcements on Covid-19 public health measures and support schemes for businesses, the self-employed and workers in the first few weeks of the crisis, it is much quieter in that space at the moment. That is why we publish our Covid-19 updates less often, but we have a new issue for you today. This time we cover changes to small business grants and the furlough scheme, additional support for self-employed and micro businesses and commercial leases.

Changes to Small Business Grant Scheme in Scotland

As expected when new systems and measures need to be put in place very quickly, not all of them respond to business needs in the best way possible and therefore need to be adapted. This is the case with the grant scheme Scottish Government set up for small businesses and which is being administered through the local authorities. Initially, grants were made available per business rather than per premise, as is the case in England. After negative feedback from concerned businesses with multiple premises, this has been reviewed. From 5 May small business rate payers will be eligible for a 100% grant on their first property plus a 75% grant on all subsequent properties. To fund this extension, an additional £120m will be made available for this scheme. You need to apply directly through your local authority and they will aim to make payment within 10 working days from receipt of a fully completed application. Find out if you are eligible and links to the relevant website of your local authority under “Coronavirus business support grants (via Local Authorities)” here:

New Scottish Government support for newly self-employed, SMEs and micro businesses

Scottish Government is making a £100m fund available to support some of the individuals and business that are not covered by the Scottish and UK Government schemes previously set up or announced. This is aimed at people that haven’t been self-employed for long enough to qualify for the UK Government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme as well as viable micro and SME businesses in distress due to the pandemic. Applications for this fund will open at the end of April but no details have been released yet on eligibility criteria or the amount of funding available.

Notice period for commercial leases extended from 14 days to 14 weeks

As part of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act, the notice period before a commercial lease can be terminated for non-payment of rent has been extended for premises in Scotland. Once commercial tenants are served with a warning letter for non-payment of rent, they now have 14 weeks instead of 14 days to pay the outstanding rent.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme cut-off date extended to 19 March

The Treasury has made changes to the rules for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which mean that more employees will become eligible. Previously, employers could only furlough staff and receive a grant covering 80% of the wages (capped at £2,500 per month) when they were employed on or before 28 February 2020. This cut-off date has now been changed to 19 March, the day before the scheme was announced. Employers can therefore also claim grants for employees who were added to the PAYE payroll between 28 February and 19 March. The updated guidance for employers is available here:

Funding call for space technology projects that can strengthen NHS coronavirus response

An initial £2.6m is being made available by UK Government to fund a number of projects to develop tech solutions to coronavirus challenges in the healthcare sector, in a joint initiative with the European Space Agency (ESA) in support of NHS England. The solutions should involve some space technologies (i.e. satellite communications, satellite navigation, images from Earth Observation satellites, technologies coming for the human space flight). Further details are available here:

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