Unions and operators have welcomed the decision by the Scottish Government to quickly address a major eligibility stumbling block for the vital £1,500 taxi driver grant.
After widespread concern and pressure from the industry, taxi and private hire drivers who have received state benefits at any time since March last year will now be eligible for a £1,500 business support grant as long as they meet the remaining criteria.
Councils will start contacting eligible drivers this week to brief them on their potential entitlement and ask them to provide supporting information and bank account details.
The trade union, Unite Scotland, had been quick to urge the Scottish Government to change the eligibility criteria to include cabbies that have been relying on state benefits during the pandemic. The change means any taxi driver in receipt of state benefits will now not be penalised through the use of top-up welfare powers, while assurances are sought with the Department for Work and Pensions.
In Scotland, it is estimated that there are over 37,000 taxi driver and private hire licences with many of the drivers having minimal or no access to Government support schemes.
Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “It’s welcomed that the Scottish government has listened to Unite and removed the eligibility restriction. The announcement will provide reassurance and much needed financial assistance for many, in particular, those most in need.
“It’s vital that no driver is penalised when applying for the grant and to this end the Scottish government must use their welfare top-up powers if needs be to ensure that this is the case, while continuing to press the Department of Work and Pensions for these assurances.
“Many taxi drivers remain excluded from other support schemes and this must be addressed to ensure our members and the trade are supported as they face continued restrictions, which effect their ability to trade and earn a living. Let's remember the taxi trade is a vital part of our public transport network and we will continue to press for support for the taxi trade."
Glasgow Taxis, the UK’s largest operator of licensed taxis outside of London, also welcomed the news. A spokesperson said: “Glasgow Taxis is pleased that the government has listened to our concerns and updated the criteria for grants so that it can reach more drivers. Our thanks, in particular, to Jamie Hepburn.
“We will continue to make the case for assistance which can help individuals and businesses across the taxi trade.“