UK banks NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have announced the availability of £1.1bn in funding to support small medium enterprise (SME) growth across the country.

Businesses with less than £2mn turnover can apply for fixed rate loans of up to £500,000, with no set up or repayment fees.

The banks say they want to assure businesses that they have funds available and want to lend.

Further, by giving companies the option to repay without penalty if they decide not to use the loan, they hope that businesses will think more freely about growth.

“In this period of uncertainty, we hope this flexibility will give confidence to businesses that are ready for growth but might be delaying investment decisions,” says managing director of business banking at RBS Marcelino Castrillo.

“Almost half of all private sector employment comes from small businesses, so helping them achieve their ambitions is hugely important and we hope to support as many businesses as possible.”

Natwest and RBS are the latest in a number of banks to offer SME lending recently. Last week HSBC and Bibby Financial Services (BFS) announced €150mn funding support for SMEs across Europe.