A new business loan fund has been launched in Scotland to help SMEs carry on trading despite the pandemic.

Business Loans Scotland (BLS) is one of two government-backed agencies making the new COVID Working Capital Loans available to eligible enterprises the length and breadth of the country.

While the start-up loans BLS has been providing for the past three years are still available, this new type of loan is targeted specifically at those who can demonstrate they were trading viably at the end of December 2019, that Covid has had an adverse impact and that they have a sound recovery plan going forwards.

BLS fund manager Andrew Dickson said: “When we were hit by the pandemic back in March, we recognised that businesses were going to be struggling with working capital and cash-flow.

“Some have managed to continue to trade through this, but others have simply had to batten down the hatches.

“Now we are inviting all those that need a bit of help to take advantage of the support on offer.”

Being rolled out in addition to the other grant and loan funding provided by the UK and Scottish governments, the COVID Working Capital Loans will be available to Scotland’s small to medium size enterprises until December 31 this year.

Loans of between £25,000 and £100,000 are available, although up to £250,000 can be borrowed in exceptional circumstances.

There is also an initial three-month capital and interest holiday too, giving an added boost to those trying to get back on their feet.

BLS manages a £7m loan fund on behalf of the Scottish Growth Scheme – Business Loans Scotland Debt Finance Fund and is financed jointly by the Scottish Growth Scheme and the European Regional Development Fund.

A consortium of Scotland’s 32 local authorities and a close sister organisation of Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise, its raison d’être is to ensure good, commercially viable proposals do not fail because of a lack of access to finance.

There are many advantages to borrowing funds through Business Loans Scotland.

Firstly, its loans have a fixed rate of interest, meaning borrowers know exactly what their repayments will be.

Secondly, applicants do not need to seek match funding – it is recognised that option might well have been exhausted by now.

And thirdly, there is always help at hand, courtesy of the organisation’s loan officers, who guide applicants throughout the entire application process.

“There are two messages we want to get across,” said Andrew. “Yes, we are still here to support people who want to start up a business, but now, through this new loan scheme, we can help also help those trying to sustain and, indeed, grow their businesses in this challenging economic climate.​

“We need to restart the economy, but a lot of businesses out there are going to need working capital/cash to do that.

“Our remit is to try to support as many businesses as we can throughout Scotland to access the finance they need – to bring down the barriers that might be blocking their path.

“Our aim? To make sure the support is there to give businesses the best possible chance to get through this.”

The criteria for eligibility and the application form can be found on Business Loans Scotland’s website at www.bls.scot