Scotland business

Business organisations unite on government support

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Image caption Smaller companies say they need help with finance

Five leading business groups have called for changes to government schemes meant to help companies get access to finance.

The groups include the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors in Scotland.

One suggestion was for tax support for wealthy individuals who are prepared to lend to firms.

They said that would fill the funding gap left by banks which have cut lending, particularly to start-ups.

Much of the government support system was created after the credit crunch began in 2008.

The joint proposal also came from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Scottish Financial Enterprise.

It called for improved communication of the finance guarantees the UK government is willing to make available to banks to support lending to companies.

They want smaller companies to be eligible for the Business Growth Fund, which currently allows banks to take an equity stake of between £2m and £10m in companies with turnover of at least £10m.

Affordable finance

The business organisations have proposed lowering the turnover threshold to £2m, bringing many more small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) into the scheme.

They also suggested changes in the Enterprise Investment Scheme, which encourages long-term equity finance, saying it would help if it also supported short-term financing, making it more attractive to individuals to invest in firms through the scheme.

The unusual joint statement by business groups called for the Scottish government to direct its £94m Scottish Loan Fund fairly towards companies with growth or export potential, rather than skewing it towards particular sectors.

Holyrood ministers, they said, should produce data on Scottish Loan Fund applications received, accepted and rejected, and on the cost of administering the fund through investment company Maven Capital Partners. The fund was set up in February.

David Wood, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, said: "Affordable finance remains an issue for the majority of SMEs despite the many measures that have been introduced to improve the situation.

"Our organisations are committed to working with government and the banks to improve the outlook for businesses across Scotland and the UK. We firmly believe that our joint statement offers a signal of intent - if we work together, solutions can be found."

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