Indyref2: SNP sent fiscal deficit warning by Maurice Golden
The Scottish Government’s Digital Growth Fund was announced by Nicola Sturgeon as a £36million fund in 2017. The fund aimed to provide loans to companies who wish to develop the digital skills of their staff in areas such as cybersecurity, data analytics and software engineering.
It was part of a wider Scottish Government’s drive to improve economic productivity as announced by the Scottish First Minister.
But in a written response to a Holyrood question from MSP Maurice Golden, the Scottish Tories economy spokesperson, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said only £6.1million had been paid out.
Figures reveal £854,229 in 2018-19 was handed out to Scottish businesses, £1.8million in 2019-20 and £3.4million in 2020-21 so far.
21 businesses were handed funds in 2018-19, 43 in 2019-20 and 57 in 2020-21 so far, the figures reveal.
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Responding to the figures, the West Scotland MSP said: “It is hugely disappointing that just a sixth of the digital growth fund has been paid out by the SNP Government in nearly three years.
“If it has taken the SNP so long to distribute so little of this fund, what hope can we have in them to rebuild our economy after the current pandemic crisis?”
At the time of the fund’s launch in March 2017, Ms Sturgeon said the lack of digital skills has been identified as a critical gap that holds back productivity and company profitability stressing the Scottish economy needed urgent help.
Ms Sturgeon added at the time: “Recent studies estimate that the economy needs 12,800 new workers with digital skills each year.
“Despite this, our last digital economy survey found that only around a quarter of businesses were doing anything to develop current employees’ digital technology skills.
“We need to change that. Scotland cannot afford to ignore this prize. That’s why we will now boost our support for digital skills.”
However, the Scottish Government defended the figures saying the scheme remains open.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Digital Development Loan (DDL) is demand-led and remains open for eligible businesses to apply.
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“As part of our commitment to ensuring Scottish businesses benefit from digital technologies, we have doubled the funding for the DigitalBoost support programme and introduced the £10 million DigitalBoost Development Grant which builds on the learning from the delivery of the Loan and is not repayable.
“The grant scheme opened to applications last week and after a fantastic response we are exploring options to expand it.”
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