Plant owners raise concerns over operation of schemes to support businesses during Covid-19


SCOTTISH plant firms have raised concerns over the operation of some of the schemes introduced to support businesses in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Callum Mackintosh, vice president of the Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA) and founder of Inverness-based Highland Hammer Hire, has written to the Scottish Government regarding the challenges faced by the plant hire industry relating to issues around the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) and small business grants initiative.

The letter, addressed to Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes, states that, “Our industry is all about machinery and with ever changing emissions regulations we need to continually reinvest profits year on year into the latest greenest/cleanest equipment to ensure our clients and our country meets its emissions targets. This investment will have to continue at a greater rate due to the UK Government’s removal of red diesel subsidy to encourage greener technology thus requiring further machinery renewal.

“Because of that continual reinvestment many of our smaller self-employed members have been able to claim capital allowances, but as a result are not eligible or barely eligible for SEISS. This is a sore blow when they’re ensuring their employees have been paid via the furlough scheme yet aren’t eligible for the equivalent themselves. In effect, such members who have invested in the future by buying equipment are then treated as if they have avoided tax when it comes to SEISS claims. Why are capital allowances deducted before the calculation of profit from which SEISS claims can be made?”

Relating to small business grants, the letter highlights concerns regarding businesses which have no premises.

“27% of our members have no need for business premises and carry out their admin from home,” the letter states. “Their equipment stays on the customers sites and moves location with each contract. These businesses still have hefty overheads including HP/lease arrangements, insurance and sadly also the costs of repairing machines vandalised on site over lockdown this is above their own personal living costs.

“As my SPOA colleague and fellow businessman Paul McCormack explained in his letter to the First Minister and Cabinet… our industry is heavily burdened with high HP/lease payments and though payments can be deferred for up to three months it it is only a delay not a waiver. Also, going forwards cash will be required to pay for the new extra H&S measures required, wages of employees once they are out of out of the Job Retention Scheme and the usual supplier payments. Why does the scheme assume that a business with premises has more need for support than one without?”

The letter went on to say, “I urge you to consider what more can be done to assist our members and the wider construction industry in Scotland. The SPOA motto is “Working Together to Derive Mutual Benefit”, whilst there is a power of work yet to be done I do believe WE can work together to find a solution to the points raised and ensure our industry pulls through this crisis for the greater benefit of the Scottish economy… doing otherwise is not an option.”