Microfinance, microcredit, self-employment, enterprise, deprived communities
While lending for small businesses and business start-up is a long-standing feature of economic policy in the UK and Scotland, little is known about the support available for those taking the first steps into self-employment, particularly people from poorer communities.
This paper presents the results of a project that aimed to address this gap. It mapped provision of support for enterprise, including microcredit (small loans for enterprise of £5,000 or less) and grants available to people in deprived communities. It found more programmes offering grants than loans. Grants programmes, although more likely to be time limited and often linked to European funding, were generally better targeted to poor communities than loan programmes that were more financially sustainable.
The introduction of the Grameen Bank to Scotland will increase access to microcredit, but this paper argues that there is a place – and a need – for both loans and grants to support enterprise development across Scotland. A Scottish economic strategy should take account of all levels of enterprise development and, in striving towards a fairer Scotland, should ensure that the poorest people and communities are not excluded from self-employment because of the lack of small amounts of support necessary to take the first steps.
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