Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, has said the £500 support fund package made available to licensed taxi drivers struggling during the pandemic is “too little and too late”. He went on to add that the fact there has been delays in making the funds available have added “insult to injury”.
Licensed taxi drivers will be able to apply for the £500 grant in January, which will come from a discretionary fund which has been made available for local authorities to distribute where they feel it is most needed.
In a letter sent to Mr Leonard from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and seen by TaxiPoint, the Scottish leader said: “On taxi drivers and private hire vehicle operators specifically, I appreciate that the challenges facing the sector as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and regulations are particularly acute, given the high fixed costs associated with operating and maintaining their vehicles.
”With our vaccination programme now in operation and the promise that this brings of reopening our economy next year, we are committed to supporting as many businesses and self-employed people through the difficult months that lie ahead and that includes taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.”
But in response, Mr Leonard said the offer was “too little and too late” and stressed that taxi drivers will already be facing an “even bleaker Christmas” than prior to the announcement of post-Christmas lockdown.
He went on to say: “Nicola Sturgeon has short changed Scotland’s cabbies. It’s also possible that they will be called on again to ferry COVID infected patients to and from hospitals, given the discovery of this new strain of the virus.
”In light of this, it‘s simply not enough to offer cabbies facing these very real risks just £500.
”The First Minister must also fast track this support so that cabbies get it as close to Christmas as possible, given the losses they are facing.
”A failure to do the right thing here would be to let down Scotland’s cabbies in the most difficult of circumstances."
Nicola Sturgeon stressed that the Government were unable to “make up for all the losses that businesses and self-employed people have and are experiencing “, but went on to say that the additional financial support fund will provide an “important and much needed source of support” for taxi drivers through the challenging months ahead.