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£21.5 million to help companies grow.
Greater help is to be offered to small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland, with plans to expand the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB).
The move follows the Scottish Government's Programme for Government commitment to create a Business Development Bank (BDB) to address the gaps in the market for finance for SMEs, and will see an allocation of £21.5 million made available in Financial Transactions funds.
Scottish Enterprise have been asked to prepare a plan for creating the Business Development Bank services by expanding the remit of SIB and they will report before the end of the Parliamentary session next month.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
"We made a commitment to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland, which have found it more difficult to gain access to funding in recent years.
"Small business is the engine of our economy and it is a national responsibility to try to provide an even playing field to help them grow.
"The challenge we face is how to establish the most appropriate investment approach, given the UK Government accounting arrangements within which we are required to work, and ensure Scotland remains a strong, vibrant, diverse and opportunity-rich economy.
"The priority for Scottish businesses is to ensure we offer as wide a range of help as possible, with targeted approaches to expand access to finance.
"I believe the best approach to creating the Scottish Business Development Bank is to enhance the remit of the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) and for Scottish Enterprise to offer a wider range of business investment approaches, addressing some of the marketplace gaps to improve the supply of funding.
"Additional activity could include providing support to a broader number and range of businesses, offering and enabling loans, and potentially guarantees, alongside equity products, and providing an enhanced financial readiness service.
"I am pleased that, despite a tough financial settlement, I have been able to use the draft budget to allocate £21.5m of Financial Transactions funding to Scottish Enterprise in 2016-17 to help in developing the SIB to meet its new objectives. Scottish Enterprise have committed to reporting back with initial plans before Parliament dissolves next month.
"Our approach will help to ensure support for company growth, particularly to scale up existing small companies to become the medium and larger enterprises Scotland needs, as well as increasing exporting, innovation, and investment and supporting the business finance market to work more effectively."
Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, Dr Lena Wilson said:
"Building on Scottish Enterprise's strong track record of delivering innovative interventions, such as the Scottish Co-Investment Funds and the Scottish Loan Fund, we will focus on a response which addresses both supply and demand issues relating to increasing the available funding options and helping companies to successfully raise funding.
"This will include improving the accessibility of information on the sources of available finance and increasing the diversity of funding options available to SMEs.
"The establishment of the Business Development Bank will augment the offering available to companies right across Scotland and we look forward to working with both public sector bodies and private sector providers to deliver this ambition."
The decision to enhance SIB's remit comes alongside other moves, such as the Scottish Government's recent launch of public procurement for a £40m Fund to distribute ERDF monies to SMEs, through funding providers. Taken together, these are part of the broader Scottish Business Development Bank approach, including wider Scottish Government and public agency finance initiatives for SMEs. These actions follow the publication of a joint report on The Market for SME Finance in Scotland, by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which highlighted the significant gaps in the Scottish marketplace for business funding for SMEs.