BT has announced it will provide support to thousands of small businesses across Scotland as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and prepares for life post-Brexit.
The launch of BT’s Small Business Support Scheme will see the company introduce a variety of new measures to help small businesses enhance connectivity, cashflow and confidence.
A recent survey conducted by Small Business Britain revealed these to be key concerns among small businesses across Scotland and the wider UK.
Initially, BT has committed to pay its 4,500 small business suppliers within 30 days of being invoiced to help firms fund the cost of ultra-fast business connections, as well as free access to business mentoring, digital skills courses and mental health support.
Alan Lees, director of BT’s enterprise business in Scotland, said the company hopes to “kick-start” economic recovery and growth for Scotland’s 334,000 small firms.
“With small businesses accounting for more than 99% of all businesses in Scotland, they are the beating heart of our economy, high streets and communities. They deserve the support of each and every one of us to help them thrive into the future,” he said.
“We’ve listened to the needs of small businesses and are stepping up to deliver a support scheme which should have something for everyone – whether you’re a sole trader, tech start-up, micro business or a larger firm,” Lees added.
BT revealed it will also introduce a new bursary scheme to give 1,000 tech startups and entrepreneurs a “financial head start”.
Available from October this year, eligible companies can apply for a bursary to benefit from free fibre broadband and mobile bundles.
Small businesses will also be eligible for funding to boost digital and social media advertising. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of small businesses want “more support around marketing and sales”, BT said. As such, it will help small firms across the country to better promote their goods and services online.
Additionally, the company will help small businesses go cashless and is preparing to launch a new digital payments system to streamline a firm’s transition.
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As a result of the pandemic, small businesses are increasingly moving to cashless transactions. One-quarter of small businesses have increased their use of contactless payments over the past few months.
Jamie Hepburn, Scottish Government minister for business, fair work and skills, welcomed BT’s announcement and emphasised the importance of increased support for small businesses moving forward.
“The past few months have been incredibly challenging for all businesses, particularly our SMEs, and it’s important that business and government work together to drive forward Scotland’s economic recovery and renewal,” he said.
“This scheme from BT will help local SMEs improve their digital capabilities, and is a welcome addition to the support available to businesses,” Hepburn added.