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‘We will double the taxi grant’ if re-elected promises Scottish Minister as cabbie frustrations grow

Image credit: Ross Campbell

‘We will double the taxi grant’ if re-elected promises Scottish Government Minister following growing frustration over a taxi driver support ‘postcode lottery’ scenario emerging in Scotland.

Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, has promised to use any funds remaining to deliver a second nationwide grant to all eligible recipients of the first taxi and private hire grant.

Last week Scottish taxi drivers branded the financial support available to cabbies as a ‘postcode lottery’.

Taxi driver representatives from Unite the Union in both Glasgow and Edinburgh have heavily criticised the Scottish Government over the varying levels of financial grants. The specific taxi and private hire grants start from £1,500, but can be topped-up by local authorities to the value of £4,000 based solely on where the taxi driver lives or is licensed.

The frustration followed news that drivers licensed with Angus Council will now get an additional £2,500 financial support grant, on top of the initial £1,500 from a first nationwide grant made available.

Extra support for drivers was also made available in Dundee and Aberdeen by the city’s councils. Both authorities have agreed to provide a discretionary top up of £1,000 in addition to the £1,500 which has already been paid out.

Unite Scotland also urged the Scottish Government to deliver a £10,000 grant to each taxi operator, the same figure handed to other small business owners, to help them through the remainder of the pandemic.

Kate Forbes MSP said in a series of tweets last night: “During the election period, I cannot make announcements on behalf of Scottish Government about business grants, including for taxi drivers. However, I can confirm that if re-elected we will double the taxi grant to those already in receipt of the first £1,500 grant.

“Our business support schemes exceed the consequentials we've received, and we've gone further to help a number of industries. We will use any funds available in the taxi scheme to deliver a second grant to all recipients of the first £1,500 grant.

“This is in response to public comments today about Scottish Government not agreeing to further taxi grants, that's partly because announcements cannot be made during the pre-election period.”

Unite’s Edinburgh Cab Branch reacted to the news saying: “To be honest, totally disgusted and deflated after today's meeting with Government officials.

“We are all gutted, angry and frustrated. We will continue to fight for a grant of £10,000 for taxi operators and push our case.

“Bitterly disappointed as we think we were conned into believing we would be getting a financial package for operators.

“However, after seeing that Kate Forbes MSP made a statement tonight - which is nowhere near enough to help our trade survive - we're hopeful we can negotiate.

“BUT - our members and all operators deserve £10,000 to help them survive.”

Unite’s Glasgow Cab Section said: “Kate Forbes, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP today have rejected calls from Unite to provide support for desperate taxi operators.

“This is an administration willing to watch 1,000’s of taxi businesses and livelihoods go to the wall.”

Dougie McPherson, the Chairman of one of the Scotland’s largest taxi firm’s, Glasgow Taxis, said: "We are extremely disappointed by today's decision which leaves taxi operators disproportionately impacted by a lack of COVID funding that has been made available elsewhere.

"The Scottish Taxi Federation put forward a detailed proposal based on researched facts and figures and one which took a realistic view as to what funding might be available and where that was most needed.

"While we were informed today that no such funding is currently available, we are very keen to continue this discussion on behalf of affected operators following the election period and once a new administration has been formed.

"We remain acutely aware that sectors of all shapes and sizes are affected by the current economic environment. However, even without COVID, the taxi trade's roadmap for the future is extremely challenging. The support and partnership working of government at both a national and local level is critical should Glasgow aspire to retain a safe public taxi service fit for the future."

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