Sports tourism firms at ‘crisis point’ after being ‘denied’ Covid-19 funding

Country sports tourism businesses have said the Scottish Government should do the “right thing” in providing further financial support.

It comes as businesses say the industry has been denied coronavirus funding for a second time.

In an open letter to MSPs Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said many country sports businesses are now at “crisis point”.

Impact on businesses

One Angus sporting agent – who wished to remain anonymous – said his business has been hit hard due to a lack of funding and income.

“We have had no help from the Scottish Government,” he said.

“We have done everything we should have and it is about the Scottish Government doing the right thing and supporting sporting businesses.

“We are gutted. It’s just not right and we have followed the law.”

Meanwhile, an Aberdeenshire commercial shooting business voiced similar concerns.

A spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government’s repeated exclusion of country sports tourism businesses from financial support is appalling.

“We have been unable to obtain any help throughout this pandemic.

“The Scottish Government seems to be completely oblivious to the crucial contribution businesses like ours make to Scotland’s rural economy.”

‘Bitterly disappointing’

BASC claim country sports businesses are being knocked back from the strategic framework business fund, despite being able to demonstrate closed or significantly modified operations.

They say that the list of eligible sports and leisure businesses is “too narrow and prescriptive”, which is often leading to support being denied where it is needed.

Public affairs manager for BASC Scotland Ross Ewing condemned the lack of funding for the industry.

He said: “The exclusion of country sports businesses from much-needed funding for a second time is bitterly disappointing.

“While we appreciate the Scottish Government is under unrelenting pressure at present, it does not forgive the recurring exclusion of a vital rural sector from crucial support.

“Country sports are integral to rural Scotland, and the sector plays a crucial role in supporting other rural businesses throughout the tourism off-season.

“Failure to help the country sports tourism sector survive this pandemic will have lasting implications in other sectors.

“The Scottish Government must urgently intervene to rectify this dire situation.”

Restart costs

The BASC believes there has also been an “apparent exclusion” in the marine and outdoor tourism restart fund, which is designed to help seasonal businesses with re-start costs.

They say the decision to exclude country sports businesses from the fund has left them “perplexed”, especially with country sports taking place outdoors.

Scottish Conservative MSP for the Mid Scotland and Fife region Murdo Fraser said: “I fully support the call from BASC to ask the Scottish Government to explain the reasons why country sports tourism businesses have again been excluded from vital funding at this time.

“As BASC have stated, many country sports businesses could go to the wall if they don’t receive financial help at this juncture. The economic impact of the pandemic on country sports has been massive.

“The Scottish Government need to act now.”

Government funding

But in response to industry concerns, the Scottish Government says more than £3 billion of funding has been distributed to support business across Scotland since the start of the pandemic last year.

The spokesperson added: “The Strategic Framework Business Fund provides monthly grants for businesses required by law to close or to significantly modify their operations.

“In addition, our £60 million local authority discretionary fund is empowering local authorities to direct funding to specific groups or sectors within their areas.

“The use of this funding is entirely at the discretion of local authorities based on the specific needs of their local economies.”