111 Scottish coach operators benefit from support fund opener

Scottish coach operators' support fund first round awards announced

111 Scottish coach operators have collectively been awarded grants worth £8,396,500 through the first round of the Scotland Coach Operators – COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund, data published by scheme administrator Visit Scotland has revealed.

By far the largest beneficiary is Parks of Hamilton, which has been awarded £700,000. Three other operators have been allocated over £300,000, with 15 more granted over £150,000. The average per-business sum is £75,644.

Controversially, the first round of the support fund for coach operators – to which £10m was ultimately allocated by the Scottish Government – was left undersubscribed after Visit Scotland rigidly observed the eligibility stipulation that required more than 55% of an applicant’s turnover in 2019/20 to have been generated by tourism and private hire business. That caused angst for some operators.

It is understood that the Fund’s appeal process did not consider applications that were very close to the threshold. One operator that was judged by Visit Scotland to have generated 53.6% of its turnover from tourism and private hire was excluded despite monies being surplus. That business questioned Visit Scotland’s calculation of its turnover. It would have potentially benefited from £72,000 in support had its first-round bid been successful.

The £1.6m that was left over was subsequently used to create a second round of the Fund, which closed on 30 June. It involves a lower eligibility threshold for tourism and private hire turnover of 40%, but it also comes with per-vehicle payments that are half of those in the first round.

At the time that the first round was launched, Visit Scotland stated that it expected it to be “heavily oversubscribed.” However, that was before the initial £5m set aside for the scheme was doubled, a move that has enabled operators with a higher number of eligible coaches to be awarded the same per-vehicle sums as those with fewer. That is entirely in line with Visit Scotland’s original methodology for surplus monies once initial payments to successful applicants had been calculated based on a theoretical cap of £150,000.

routeone has asked Visit Scotland how many applications to the first round of the Fund were refused.