With the coronavirus pandemic taking its toll on most industries, taxi drivers have found themselves struggling to make ends meet in a trade which thrives on vibrant active city life.
Although as self employed workers many are entitled to benefit from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, drivers are still struggling to find enough work to tide them over until the pandemic passes.
Glasgow councillor, Alex Wilson, has now written to Scottish government, calling for a financial package to be put in place to help assure the survival of an industry that dates back a century.
In the letter made public by Mr Wilson, the councillor from the Scottish National Party, Cardanold Ward, wrote: “I am writing to you in my role as Convener of Glasgow City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee to highlight the extreme challenges facing the city’s Taxi and Private Hire Car trade as a result of the Covid pandemic and the necessary measures put in place to restrict the further spread of the virus.
“While the trade as a whole has been badly hit across the country as a result of many people working from home together with the restrictions on hospitality and socialising more generally, it is increasingly clear that the combined impact of the virus and the restrictions required to suppress transmission are having a hugely differential impact on those working within Scotland’s cities.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that Glasgow’s taxi and private hire car trade has been particularly badly hit as it relies so heavily on our vibrant night time economy, commercial sector and on our major sporting and cultural events calendar. Without this activity and the need to transport people across the city, the trade has been left with very little business to sustain what was once a thriving sector and one which will be vital to restarting and supporting our city’s economy once restrictions begin to ease.
“There has of course, rightly, been a huge amount of focus on the impact on the hospitality trade as a result of curfews and restrictions on the selling of alcohol, but what has been less well publicised and discussed is the indirect impact this has had on the taxi and private hire car trade which has been decimated as a result of the lack of a night time economy in the city.
“While the Licensing Authority in Glasgow has put in place a number of measures to support the trade through lockdown and the ongoing restrictions, such as a 6 month extension of licences which were due to expire between March and August, allowing for the temporary suspension of vehicle licences while not in use, changes to our vehicle inspection regime and a pausing of policies for the undertaking of driver training and the renewal of older vehicles, it is increasingly clear that further financial support for drivers and operators is absolutely vital to their survival over the coming months.
“As you will no doubt be aware, the taxi and private hire car trade in Glasgow is a diverse one, supporting a huge number of drivers from an older age profile who have only ever worked within the trade or our many drivers who come from different ethnic backgrounds and have found challenges in accessing other career opportunities. The financial impact of Covid for these drivers and their families has been severe and is continuing with no immediate prospect of improvement.
“I appreciate that many of the issues relating to financial support will be tied up with the availability of funding and other schemes from the UK Government, but I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you or your officials the possibility of greater financial assistance being made available to the trade, or other business support measures which could be put in place to support this important part of the city’s transport network and the livelihood of its drivers and operators.”
The calls come just days after the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said she recognised the “financial difficulties” taxi drivers were facing due to the pandemic.
Speaking on the subject, Sturgeon said: “We have sought to provide as much support to as many groups as possible. I recognise the point about non-domestic rates and the difficulties that that causes for some groups of workers and businesses. We will continue to look at what more we can do.
“I make the obvious point that our resources are finite and we cannot continue to stretch them. That is why our discussions with the United Kingdom Government are also a really important part of that.
“However, I recognise the difficulties that taxi drivers face and we will continue to look at what we can do to help them and other groups who are finding the situation so difficult.”