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Campaign launched by Highland MSP David Stewart to help businesses facing financial hit due to coronavirus crisis


By Ian Duncan

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MSP David Stewart.
MSP David Stewart.

A campaign has been launched to help Highland businesses during the current coronavirus pandemic.

David Stewart, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has contacted fellow north MSP and finance secretary Kate Forbes asking her to request that Scottish banks alter charges for commercial borrowers during the time of the outbreak.

The MSP wants Scottish banks to charge commercial borrowers the Bank of England base rate of 0.1 per cent for a period of three to six months, after being contacted by concerned business owners.

Mr Stewart said: “I have received representation from commercial outlets who are seeking help to weather the unprecedented financial storm of the coronavirus outbreak.

“What I am being told is that they want to see Scottish banks charge their commercial borrowers the Bank of England rate of 0.1 per cent for three months initially, then month to month as the government sees fit.

"This would take a huge strain off businesses and yes, the banks would lose out on their profit margin for the period, but it would help an untold amount of hotels, restaurants and other businesses survive this crisis.”

Mr Stewart said it made good commercial sense and added: "I have contacted the Finance Secretary to seek her backing for this. This could be absolutely critical in keeping businesses alive and could make the difference between survival and failure for businesses throughout the Highlands and Islands, and indeed the whole of Scotland.”

Ross Morrison, the chairman of Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club, said: “At the moment the banks are offering to defer capital payments on commercial loans. This is all well and good and helpful but what does this cost the banks? Very little. The banks will still charge the lenders the rates over base rate as this margin is where their profit lies.

“With this current situation set to continue to deepen this measure would help businesses survive the crisis and there would be a lot less liquidations at the end of this outbreak.

“The state bailed the banks out when they needed it. We are all in this together and it’s only fair now that the banks should return that favour to ensure the viability of hundreds of businesses in the north and tens of thousands in the rest of Scotland.”


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