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Scotland's wealthiest man praised for repaying furlough funds

By Tom Ramage

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Scotland’s wealthiest man and biggest private landowner has been praised for becoming the first employer in the country to pay back the public purse for funds from the furlough scheme.

The money was used to tide over Anders Holch Povlsen's conservation company Aviemore-based WildLand Ltd during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Danish billionaire will be repaying back nearly £300,000 that the company received from the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme.

Anders Povlsen
Anders Povlsen

It is understood to be the first Scottish firm to do so.

Company chief executive Tim Kirkwood confirmed that it would reimburse the public purse for all of the cost of its furloughed workers.

He said they were grateful for the support from the UK government that had been on offer to protect nearly 50 employees who work on WildLand’s estates during the height of the pandemic.

Mr Kirkwood said: “I am delighted to confirm that we will be arranging a repayment to the public purse.

“The impacts of the coronavirus have caused significant disruption across Scotland, and our company has been no exception. We planned for the worst and strived for the best.”

“Through a lot of hard work and business planning by our team, working on efficiencies and coping with the ever-changing rules, WildLand can be confident in moving forwards.

“The interim support from the government has been really valuable in protecting jobs and supporting us through a period of re-evaluation and reorganisation.

“We are grateful for this and look forward to better times for all.”

The repayment by WildLand Ltd to the UK government will be made through substantial commercial funding assisted by Mr Povlsen’s main business and parent company Bestseller.

Mr Kirkwood said: “I am delighted to confirm that we will be arranging a repayment of £296,000 to the public purse. The pandemic is still creating instability, and we must be mindful of the need to continually adapt.

“However, we are committed to our growing investment in Scotland and plan for a bright future ahead.

“For now, I want to thank our staff and our partners for their steadfast efforts in allowing us to reach this important milestone.”

Mr Kirkwood said the company had been in a position to top up the 20 per cent of additional pay for its furloughed workers during the latter part of the lockdown and it had now welcomed back all of their staff to work.

Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry (SNP) has welcomed the repayment.

He said: “It is good to hear WildLand Ltd is in a position to pay back this money to the Treasury and it would be great to see other large corporations that find themselves in a similar position follow Mr Povlsen’s lead.

“I hope that the chancellor will do the right thing and reinvest unexpected returns of furlough money from large corporations into schemes for small businesses still struggling to make ends meet and, of course, finally heed our calls to support those who have been excluded from any support.

“I will certainly be writing to him to make this very suggestion.”

Deirdre Falconer
Deirdre Falconer

Deirdre Falconer is local community councillor for the Drumguish area neighbouring Mr Povlsen’s favourite base at Glenfeshie Estate.

She said: “I am very pleased to learn that Mr Polvsen is to repay this money from the UK government’s furlough scheme. I would also like to extend my gratitude and admiration to those who have continued to manage the land and feed the nation as normal, throughout this crisis.”

Mr Povlsen’s clothing company Bestseller is due to confirm at next month’s AGM that it has avoided its first ever financial deficit.

“Our financial results will not look pretty, however, we will make a profit,” the tycoon revealed in a statement issued earlier this week.

The better than expected result has prompted the company to repay the support package it received from the Danish government – some 10.5 million euros.

Bestseller employs some 17,000 colleagues globally.

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