Scottish taxi drivers ‘hanging by a thread’ still waiting for £30million discretionary fund to open

Image credit: Ross Campbell

Scottish taxi drivers financially ‘hanging by a thread’ are still awaiting a new Government lifeline fund to open despite an announcement two weeks ago says Scottish Labour Leader.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced the new measures to help taxi drivers financially affected by the impact of coronavirus on Tuesday 17 November. It was announced a new £30million fund was made available to Local Authorities which would provide additional help to taxi drivers and other businesses hit by COVID-19.

With travel and leisure restrictions put in place across the UK, the coronavirus pandemic has caused ongoing low-levels of work for thousands of taxi drivers who thrive on vibrant active city life.

Whilst as self-employed workers many cabbies have been entitled to benefit from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), the grant focuses heavily on the driver profits. The high operating costs involved in running a licensed taxi means many are still struggling to find enough work to tide them over until the pandemic passes.

At a Business Support debate at Scottish Parliament yesterday, the Scottish Labour Leader, Richard Leonard, highlighted the perilous position taxi drivers still find themselves in.

Richard Leonard said: “When the £30 million discretionary fund was announced by the First Minister two weeks ago, it was to assist businesses that were falling through the gaps of existing support schemes—freelancers, businesses without premises, taxi drivers, people who had recently taken the plunge to start up a new business and businesses in supply chains.

“I have to report that I have been contacted by taxi drivers and other businesses that are hanging by a thread and which have been scouring local authority websites for information on how they can get help.

“However, they are being told that local authorities are waiting for Scottish Government guidance. Because there is no guidance, the funding is not yet open for applications. Because there is no confirmation date in sight, there is no support available—so, still they wait.”

Kate Forbes, Scottish National Party MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said during the debate: “The discretionary funding is of course a partnership with local authorities. As members are always quick to remind me, when we do things in partnership there is a role for local government in coming to an agreement.

“The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has agreed, internally, the distribution, and we have been agreeing the guidance with it.

“That guidance, as I am sure everybody would accept, needs to strike a balance between clarity, to make sure that we support the sectors that we have mentioned, such as taxi drivers, and discretion, reflecting for example the fact that businesses in the Western Isles may have different needs to those in the middle of Edinburgh.”

Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP for Dumbarton, added: “What about the discretionary fund? £30 million for supply-chain companies and people such as taxi drivers is incredibly welcome, but the fund is not yet open and there seems to be no date in sight.”
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