Local authorities in Scotland to distribute new £80m Covid recovery fund
A new £80 million fund has been announced to help businesses and communities in Scotland recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The funding, unveiled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday in Edinburgh, will be provided to local authorities to be distributed as they see fit.
A further £3 million was also allocated to help the seven cities in Scotland drive footfall to city centre businesses.
“This £80 million Covid Economic Recovery Fund allows councils to consider the needs of local businesses, communities and households and to target support to maximise economic recovery in their areas,” the First Minister said.
“We know public health measures which were necessary to control Covid-19 have had a severe economic impact and, since the start of the pandemic, businesses have benefitted from more than £4.4 billion in support from the Scottish Government.”
The funding comes 24 hours before the First Minister outlines the new strategic framework, which aims to get Scotland back to normal after the pandemic “as quickly as possible”, while also preparing for future pandemics.
She added: “Our updated strategic framework, which I will set out to Parliament tomorrow, will support resilience in communities across Scotland by outlining robust plans to prepare for possible new variants or other future emergencies, should we need to act to protect public health.
“Of course, the best way to support business sustainably is to act responsibly and to sustainably manage the risks the virus presents as we begin to live the more normal life that we all crave.”
The cash for the fund is the final tranche of some £375 million of support announced to deal with the onset of the Omicron variant.
Alison Evison, the president of local authority body Cosla, welcomed the announcement.
“This additional funding will enable councils to play an even greater role in supporting economic and social recovery in their areas, as we move out of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
“We know that businesses, communities and low income households have been hit hard over the last two years and local government has been at the forefront of supporting those most affected.
“The flexibility offered by this funding will enable councils to provide local support where they know the need is greatest.”
The Scottish Government has been criticised previously for funding taking too long to get to the bank accounts of impacted businesses.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, the First Minister said that the Scottish Government want to get the money out “as quickly as possible”.
She added: “This is funding that local authorities will have discretion over how to use, some of it may go direct to businesses, some of it may support campaigns to get people to come back into town centres, for example.
“That flexibility I think, is important because no two local authorities circumstances will be exactly the same.
“What is necessary and will help in the centre of Edinburgh or Glasgow might not be appropriate for rural and more remote parts of the country.
“There’s always a balance to strike here. Local authorities are best placed to meet the needs because they understand the needs of local communities.”
Ms Sturgeon also took the opportunity to wish the Queen well after the Palace announced she had contracted Covid-19 and was suffering from mild symptoms.
“I want to send my very best wishes for the speediest possible recovery to Her Majesty the Queen I know she’ll be getting very well looked after but people across the country will be thinking of her at this time and wishing her all the best,” the First Minister said.
“She’s led by example on many occasions, throughout the pandemic from leading from the front getting her vaccinations to, you know, obviously that very painful picture of her sitting alone a Prince Philip’s funeral, so everybody will we will be wishing her all the best.”
Confirmation of the Queen’s positive test, the First Minister said, was a “very stark reminder” that Covid-19 is still circulating.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jane Barlow / PA.