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Covid-19: Support for Businesses

Volume 679: debated on Wednesday 9 September 2020

What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economic support available for Scottish businesses during the covid-19 outbreak. (905552)

I have regular discussions with my Cabinet colleagues, including the Chancellor, on all aspects of the impact of coronavirus in Scotland. The unprecedented actions we have taken have supported over 930,000 jobs and more than 65,000 businesses in Scotland. Over £2.3 billion of support for business is being given through the Government-supported loan schemes.

With its abundant renewable resources, Scotland has the opportunity to be a world leader in hydrogen technology, a $2.5 trillion global market. Will the Minister inform the House what conversations are taking place between the Government and Scotland to ensure that we seize this opportunity together as a Union?

The Government are absolutely committed to the development of hydrogen as part of our decarbonisation strategy. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that in July, the Government launched the Hydrogen Advisory Council, where Government and UK industry will work together to identify and promote the supply of low-carbon hydrogen at scale across the energy system. Scottish companies are members of this council.

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) and Mariam on the birth of their baby daughter, Zola. The House will be pleased to hear that she has very robust lungs and her father’s cheeks—that is how it has been put to me. [Interruption.] These cheeks, Mr Speaker!

The Minister knows that businesses across Scotland are in desperate need of additional support specifically in relation to the furlough scheme. The UK Government have in place one of the shortest furlough schemes of any country in Europe. Will he please today, ahead of the Opposition day debate, announce that we will extend the furlough scheme for those businesses that need it most, and particularly in Scotland for the hospitality and accommodation sectors, because they need help from this Government?

I should also add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) on the birth of his daughter. I am delighted to hear that her vocal contributions will be as strong as his.

The hon. Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore) highlights the furlough scheme, which has been a very valuable tool in our economic response to coronavirus, but I point out to him that it is about giving the right support at the right time. The Chancellor is correct to move us towards supporting people returning to work through schemes such as the job retention scheme and many of the other packages that we are putting in place to support all sectors of the economy.

Many local newspapers in Scotland were pleased to get UK Government advertising business at the start of lockdown and agreed heavily discounted rates for it. Many of them were surprised then, after invoices had been issued, to get requests from the UK Government for further discounts. Is the Minister content that his Government should be treating Scotland’s local newspapers in that way?

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. This is a unique partnership to support the newspaper industry. It was agreed by Newsworks on behalf of all publications and the terms of the agreement are commercially confidential. I can tell him that at least 60% of the funding is supporting smaller local titles. If he has any specific issues with titles in his constituency, I am more than happy to explore them with him and raise them with my colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.