FULL STORY: Details of the Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland Coach Operators – COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund’ have been announced.
It is the first coach-sector specific support to be provided in any part of the UK and the fund has been almost doubled to £10m.
Applications for grants open on 16 February and close one week later on 23 February.
Grants are made per eligible coach, depending on its size and Euro emissions.
There are a number of conditions relating to the type of business – coach tourism is being targeted – and only Euro 5 and Euro 6 coaches can be considered.
Operators can apply for grants up to a maximum of £150,000 per company. This means that if the fund is fully subscribed to the maximum, 66 firms would be benefit, or more firms if lower amounts are claimed.
Since last spring, the Westminster government has consistently rejected calls for support for coach operators in England. The devolved administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales have not acted on, or commented on, calls for support.
All the devolved administrations received significant funding from central Government as a result of Covid and, to be used for business support. They have been free to choose which businesses to support, and in what ways.
The Scottish funding pot has been almost doubled to £10m, it has been revealed by Visit Scotland – which is distributing the fund – as it sets out the eligibility criteria, “developed with input from the Confederation of Passenger Transport.”
It follows last month’s promise by Visit Scotland that details of how to apply would be announced this month.
Support for Scottish-based operators
The fund is designed to provide financial support for Scottish-based businesses in the coach operator sector that are “critical to Scotland’s tourism economy,” says Visit Scotland.
The fund will support these specific businesses “to help keep them in business while travel restrictions are still in place” while they “incur significant costs for vehicles which cannot operate while restrictions on travel are still in place, and to help prepare for recommencing operations when restrictions are lifted,” says Visit Scotland.
The COVID-19 lockdown, travel guidance, and current social distancing measures continue to place coach operators under considerable financial strain.
Around 80% of the coach industry’s income (c. £3.3bn) is derived from tourism related activities, says Visit Scotland.
Coach operators, who are largely family-owned and can have a
significant positive employment impact in a rural area, estimate that fleet costs can be around £200 per vehicle per day, it adds.
‘High demand’ and ‘fair grants’
“We’re anticipating a high demand for this fund across the sector. The amount awarded to each applicant will be determined by the eligibility criteria and supporting information provided,” says Visit Scotland.
“The Scottish Government has allocated a set amount for this Fund and it is anticipated that demand will be high across the industry. In determining the grant support payable to each eligible applicant, regard will be given to the criteria and the supporting information provided,” it adds.
“In the interest of fairness, the final amount awarded to a successful applicant will be determined once all applications are received and vetted.”
Visit Scotland points out that grants are “up to a maximum of £150,000 per company.” If applications exceed the funds available, it reserves the right to award a grant “significantly lower than the indications provided.”
The full criteria are set out in the guidance document (see below), but key requirements are:
- Coaches eligible for funding must be 8-seats or more, be Euro 5 or Euro 6 and owned prior to 31 March 2020
- The business operates in Scotland as a coach tourism business or private hire
- The business has been in operation since at least 1 December 2019
- The coach tourism/private coach hire business’ turnover is more than 55% of total turnover (as shown in the annual accounts)
- The business must not have been in financial difficulty as at 31 December 2019
The fund is designed to assist operators in the tourisim market, meaning that non-eligble businesses include:
- Businesses that receive more than 45% of their annual turnover from non-coach tourism/private hire sources such as bus service/local authority/MoD/rail replacement/home to school contracts
- Holders of Restricted and Special Restricted O-Licenses.
The funding allocation applies to each qualifying coach applied for. Each qualifying coach will receive an award of “up to” the following:
Successful applicants will be required to provide a report within six months of the grant being made “to assess the value of the grant
and the impact of the funding on their organisation,” says Visit Scotland.
The fund opens for applications from 12 noon on Tuesday 16 February 2021 until 5pm on Tuesday 23 February 2021.
Applications must be submitted during this time period but are not considered on a first-come first-basis.
For more details and the guidance visit www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/funding/coach-operator-fund
For questions about the application or process, contact [email protected]