Business on Arran takes a battering

Rush hour in Brodick. This was Shore Road in Brodick at 9am on Wednesday morning which is normally bustling with people going to work and about their business at this time.

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By Hugh Boag

The continued lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic is doing severe damage to the Arran economy.

It has led to fears that without urgent government support businesses, including guest houses, B&Bs and self-catering units, may close and never re-open.

But there was some good news in that there has been just one new positive COVID-19 case on the island this week, since the two confirmed last week, as we went to press.

Ruth Betley, senior manager, Arran Services said: ‘We continue to assess people with symptoms of COVID-19 and, among those who can be tested, there has been a further positive case this week.

‘At any one time, 10 to 20 per cent of health and social care staff have been self-isolating but all essential services have been running. I would like to repeat my thanks to all those working in health and caring roles.

‘Everyone is reminded services such as the GP practice and accident and emergency remain open so if you are unwell get in touch.

‘The stay at home advice is working. Thank you again to everyone for following the government advice,’ she added.

The Scottish government has announced extra support for businesses. The funding will help Arran as it includes £120 million to extend the Small Business Grant Scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100 per cent grant for the first property, small business rate payers will be eligible to a 75 per cent grant on subsequent properties.

A new £100 million fund will also protect self-employed people and viable micro, small and medium sized businesses in trouble. For Arran, this fund will be channelled through North Ayrshire Council, to target newly self-employed people and businesses ineligible for other schemes.

Applications will open at the end of the month and arrangements for the Small Business Grant will be in place to receive applications from May 5.

Concerns remain, however, that there is still a lack of support for small businesses such as guest houses and B&Bs who pay Council Tax rather than business rates.

There are also questions about why self-caterers in Scotland are required to meet a a higher threshold to access support than other businesses and self-caterers in England.

Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson said: ‘COVID-19 is doing severe damage to Arran’s economy and if it leads to a business going bust, that business may not re-open. That’s why it’s vital to help businesses, proprietors and workers get through this.

‘Of primary concern remains protecting people’s health, but the outbreak is having a severe impact on Arran’s economy. Many island businesses are already eligible for small business grants. We will extend that scheme to help even more.

‘Having been contacted by many island constituents responsible for two or more business properties, I know these new funding packages, will be welcomed by small and new businesses across Arran. The extra relief will make a huge difference.

‘The new £100 million fund will help businesses with immediate cash flow challenges ineligible for other support. Newly self-employed people ineligible can also access this.

‘With UK Government assistance unavailable until June, we are working to secure the future economic viability of firms now,’ Mr Gibson added.

Advice for businesses and employees is available at:

An HMRC helpline for tax issues is at 0800 015 9559.