TRADERS at Glasgow institution The Forge Market fear their businesses may fail during lockdown due to a loophole that stops them accessing lifeline funding.

More than 100 independent businesses at the East End market have been knocked back for Business Support Fund grants.

Now they say there are fears some of the businesses will go to the wall if the Scottish Government does not change its funding criteria.

Drew Nicol, owner of Bespoke Canvas Art & Interiors, has been petitioning politicians in a bid to have the loophole closed as it has already been in England and Wales.

He said: "If I owned a shop on the high street, even if I paid less tax or no VAT or had a smaller turnover, I would be entitled to claim financial support for my business.

"But because I am a trader in the market, the rules are different and I can't claim support.

"I find it unbelievable that we are in this position and are being treated this way.

"The Westminster government changed its rules in early May so if we were in England or Northern Ireland we wouldn't be having this issue either."

The Scottish Government has set up a £145 million funding reserve to help small businesses and the self-employed during the coronavirus shutdown as part of a wider £2.3 billion support package for the business sector.

Glasgow Times:

Small businesses can apply to the local authority, in this case Glasgow City Council, for a grant if they are listed on the non domestic rates register with a rateable value of up to £18,000.

But the market traders at The Forge Market pay their business rates as part of their rent to the market owners, French firm Geraud Markets.

This means they do not meet the criteria for a grant as they effectively sub let from Geraud Markets.

Drew said: "Since the markets closed, for most of the businesses our income is zilch.

"I've had to use thousands of pounds of my savings to pay off invoices that I had owed and other business owners are in the same position.

"Market traders like us have been overlooked."

The Forge Market, which opened 25 years ago, closed to trading on Sunday, March 22, seeing more than 100 businesses close and leaving around 130 staff out of work.

Pauline Adam says she and her fellow traders have been "slaughtered" by the Covid-19 crisis and the lack of funding support.

She said: "The night I put the shutters down on the business I cried all the way home because I couldn't think when I would get to see it again.

"We have a huge amount of stock and I have never been in arrears in my life but we had taken a massive order and then were forced to close just as people were starting to shop for this summer's weddings so I am still paying off suppliers and paying rent.

"We feel we have been thrown to the slaughter by not being eligible for the grants.

"We can't access a penny."

Geraurd Markets has written off 90 per cent of the traders' and is asking for only 10 per cent of the rents when traders are able to pay it. 

Pauline owns Glam Hair, a business selling hair extensions and fascinators, and also fears the effects of social distancing once the stall can reopen.

She added: "Once we reopen, I don't think people will be in a rush to get back.

"With the nature of my business, I need to be close to the girls as they try on hair extensions and fascinators so, while we will come up with ways of social distancing, it will not be easy.

"Normally my place is bouncing but I can't see it returning to normal for a very long time."

Drew has been contacting politicians in a bid to persuade the government to make changes to the application process.

Local councillor Thomas Kerr said: "Having grown up in the East End I know how important the Forge Market is to many people.

"The market traders in my ward rightly feel that they have been abandoned because of a loophole in the way grant payments are being processed.

"The UK Government closed this loophole in England by giving councils discretionary funds specifically for businesses like these but in Scotland the SNP have left them to fend for themselves.

"This crisis doesn't distinguish between a market stall in Shettleston or Sunderland and it's a disgrace that local people in the East End are being made to pay the price for SNP neglect.

"Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, has to find a way of closing this loophole soon, livelihoods are depending on it."

Glasgow Times:

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said that, while the local authority is sympathetic to the market's situation, its hands are tied.

He said: "While we understand the frustration that such businesses may feel with this process at this unprecedented and challenging time, council officers have no discretion in this matter and cannot amend the guidance or make allowances."

Khalid Mohammed owns RKA Direct Ltd, a flower stall, and also worries about the impact of social distancing on the market.

He employs five staff members.

He said: "We are so far tens of thousands of pounds down on our annual turnover and I can't see how we will recover from this.

"There are businesses that seem very unlikely to make it through this crisis and the market traders as a whole are very worried about the future.

"We have already missed Mother's Day this year, which is a big event for us.

"The £10,000 grant would make such a difference but aren't entitled to it.

"If The Forge Market goes under it's not just the traders but all the staff who will suffer."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Our total package for businesses during this unprecedented economic crisis now totals £2.3 billion.

"Ministers are listening to concerns from businesses as we continue to explore how best to help.

"It’s precisely because we recognised that there were a number of individuals and smaller firms ineligible for support from the UK Government, or not yet in receipt of the funds they need to survive, that we introduced a £100 million grant fund, which has been topped up to £145 million, to support SMEs and newly self-employed people.

"We would encourage businesses to visit for what support might be available to them."