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Sail Scotland's determination pays off as essential new COVID-19 tourism support fund opens

by Sail Scotland 1 May 14:46 UTC
Pleasure yachts at Kytra, Caledonian Canal © Peter Sandground

The Scottish Government's promised £100 million COVID-19 fund to support small and medium-sized businesses and the self-employed opened yesterday for applications - to the delight of Sail Scotland and its members.

The national marine tourism body has been fiercely lobbying the Scottish Government for additional assistance for its members, joining voices with Wild Scotland to support the wider marine and adventure tourism sector. Both organisations have received high numbers of distress calls from businesses who face the catastrophic loss of seasonal visitors but fall between the cracks of Scottish and UK Government support.

Sail Scotland estimates a devastating 95% loss of business across the marine tourism sector this year, due to the industry's reliance on seasonal visitors. For these businesses, there is no opportunity for recovery until spring 2021 - which will be too late for many.

In a plea for additional support, the national body also highlighted Scotland's reputation as a world-class sailing destination, a key driver of the tourism economy. The marine tourism sector also plays an essential role ensuring the success of the targeted, themed year, Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters, which will now move from 2020 to 2021.

Sail Scotland also warned of the potential impact on remote rural and island communities, many of which rely on the expenditure of sailing and outdoor activity visitors.

Gavin McDonagh, Chair of Sail Scotland, said: "I am pleased that all the hours of direct lobbying to Government Ministers over the past few weeks on behalf of our industry has resulted in positive support for our sector. On behalf of myself and the board of Sail Scotland we would like to thank our Chief Executive Alan Rankin for his efforts in representing our sector and achieving this vital financial support."

The new £100 million COVID-19 support from the Scottish Government comprises three separate funds. A £45 million Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund has opened for viable but vulnerable small and medium-sized businesses who are vital to Scotland's local, regional or national economies. This aims to support companies with working capital to help them continue trading and to ensure they can help to restart economic recovery.

A £20 million Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund has opened to small creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of other COVID-19 business rates relief and related grant support. This will focus on helping companies manage cashflow commitments over the next three months.

Finally, a £34 million hardship fund is now open to the newly self-employed, with £2,000 grants available to those facing hardship.

Online applications for these funds opened at 2pm yesterday but Sail Scotland has already had reports from members struggling to access the application platform. This clearly indicates the pressure on these new funds, highlighting how much they are needed.

Alan Rankin, CEO of Sail Scotland, said. "It was clear to see that many of our members and wider industry seemed to be falling between the gaps of the UK funding support mechanisms. There has been open and ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government ministers and officials, and we appreciate the recognition that has been afforded to this vital sector. We will continue to press for additional support as the sector is so seasonal, with many operators not likely to see any business until the spring of 2021.

"Our sector extends right across Scotland and really does play a vital economic role in many rural areas. Our outstanding sailing grounds attract thousands of visiting boats each year, including bringing visitors to remote islands and coastal places. Their absence this season cannot be overstated. In just one example, we worked to bring a Danish flotilla of 35 yachts to Scotland this summer, which would have brought an estimated total £200,000 spend to their destinations - Inverness, the Caledonian Canal, Fort William, Oban and Tobermory. This essential revenue now lost as a result of the pandemic."

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