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Benefits row

Outrage as taxi drivers ineligible for new grant

Taxis

Taxi drivers have been forced to claim benefits

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has been urged to fix a loophole that disqualifies taxi drivers claiming a new business support grant.

Trade union Unite said it has been inundated by calls from taxi drivers stating that because earnings have collapsed they had no choice but to apply for benefits.

But this means they do not qualify for the new government support package launched today.

Benefits include Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay, Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seekers’ Allowance and Income Support.

Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: “Like so many other SNP business support measures, this money is long overdue. But it comes with strings attached, making it inaccessible to many who are in desperate need.

“The SNP government urged taxi drivers to claim Universal Credit yet are now penalising them by using these claims as an excuse to block payment of the new lifeline grants.

“These drivers are on their knees through no fault of their own and they will be rightly furious at this decision.

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“We know the SNP is clueless about business and the economy, but their repeated failures are putting countless jobs at risks.

“They have received billions of pounds in extra support from the UK government and are sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds of that while firms go bust and jobs are lost.

Scottish Labour economy spokesperson Alex Rowley has written to the Economy Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, calling for the support package for taxi drivers to be fixed.

“We simply cannot have thousands of taxi drivers, in particular those most at risk, being unable to receive this support.

“The support package is welcome, but without taking action to alter it the SNP risks discriminating against thousands of the poorest drivers.”

In Scotland, it is estimated that there are over 37,000 taxi driver and private hire licences in Scotland with many of the drivers having minimal or no access to government support schemes. 

An online survey of over 200 taxi drivers released in December 2020 by Unite Scotland highlighted that many drivers are regularly working 16-17-hour days with a shift being determined as having been ‘good’ if £50 is cleared. 

The survey also showed that 30% of drivers have been unable to access any financial help from government support schemes.  For those that have been able to access financial help from government the biggest group (37%) reported that it represents less than 25% of their average earnings. 

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “The trade has been afforded minimal support by the Scottish Government to date and what has been offered has been too little and too late.

“The new monies announced actually does nothing for those taxi drivers who have been hit the hardest and had to claim benefits such as Universal Credit because they will be ineligible.

“The poorest are being discriminated against which is disgraceful. The support for taxi drivers is also not as generous as in Northern Ireland or in Wales where the respective administrations have acted in a speedier fashion to address the major challenges facing the trade.”



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