The Scottish Conservatives led an attack at First Minister’s Questions, accusing the Scottish Government of failing to deliver a promised boost to private sector business.

During the exchanges, party leader Ruth Davidson claimed that a three-year scheme set up in 2016 to provide investment and guarantees to firms had yet to pay out any money.

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This statement was also repeated in a tweet from the Scottish Conservatives’ official account.

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it to be True.

Evidence

The Scottish Growth Scheme was announced by Nicola Sturgeon in September 2016 as part of the Scottish Government’s legislation announcement.

It was intended as a three-year plan to provide assistance to small and medium-sized new businesses. The announcement confirmed the Scottish Government would “provide up to £500 million over three years of investment guarantees, and some loans, up to a maximum of £5 million per eligible business”.

However, the Scottish Conservatives argued that the money announced has yet to materialise, and over a year into the three-year plan the scheme has not provided any of its promised assistance.

This claim was also made in a report in the Sunday Times from August 2017, which revealed that the money had not become available.

The Scottish Government responded that work had been “undertaken to develop and design” the fund, and that this had been “clearly indicated” when it was announced.

It was apparently confirmed by business minister Keith Brown in a Scottish Parliament debate on 6 September, 2017.

In response to questions over the fund from Conservative and Liberal Democrat MSPs, he said: “Applicants are engaging with the Scottish Government to access the funding, but we have to go through the diligence process. As soon as we have done that, we will make the information available to Parliament.”

After questioning from Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie about whether the scheme had paid out any money, he said: “We are engaging with applicants to the fund, which takes time. The process will also depend on the applicants themselves.”

This would seem to suggest that no financial support had been provided at that point.

A freedom of information request published on the Scottish Government website on October 26, 2017 also confirmed that “discussions on a number of applications for funding are ongoing, but are not yet concluded.”

Finance minister Derek Mackay said on 31 October 2017 that “it is not possible to speculate on a precise date” for when the first business or organisation would receive financial support from the scheme.

The Scottish Government told Ferret Fact Service: “The first tranche of investment under the Scottish Growth Scheme will provide an estimated £200 million for businesses who are typically seeking equity investment of £2 million upwards.

“Further announcements on investment through the scheme will be made in due course.”

While the fund was announced in 2016’s Programme for Government, it appears to not have actually started its operation until June 2017.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

The claim by the Scottish Conservatives is correct, as the Scottish Government has not as yet provided any financial support via the Scottish Growth Scheme as announced in September 2016. However, while the fund itself was announced last year, it appears that it was not officially launched until earlier in 2017.

This claim is True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.

In response to a Ferret Fact Service request for evidence, The Scottish Conservatives provided an FoI response from the Scottish Government and a Holyrood Parliamentary answer from Derek Mackay.

Photo thanks to Moeng, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Ruth Davidson
Scottish Conservatives leader


The Scottish Government’s £500m Growth Scheme – announced a year ago – is still to distribute a single penny.