Scottish Conservatives call for Forbes taxi u-turn

Kate Forbes must u-turn on refusing grants to taxi drivers who are on Universal Credit, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

Douglas Ross said the “mess” must be sorted immediately and cash has to start reaching taxi drivers and businesses in general far more quickly.

The Scottish Government have made drivers on Universal Credit ineligible for the grant, and they are asking drivers to prove loss of income while the financial year is ongoing.

Unite’s Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty has said: "The new monies announced actually do 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.”

Private hire driver Richard Halliday told STV News last night: “I feel cheated, I feel let down by the government…I feel the government should have been telling us way back in November about the caveats."

The taxi driver fund, announced on 9 December, was originally supposed to launch on 11 January and was delayed by a week.

This comes as new Scottish Government statistics show that the SNP have paid out less than a tenth of promised funding to businesses, delivering just £55 million of a promised £715 million.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “This is a bitter blow for taxi drivers who waited months for funding, only for those struggling the most to be told they’re banned from getting these grants.

“Kate Forbes has to u-turn today and get this mess sorted immediately. This oversight could force drivers and businesses to close.

“There’s no way the SNP can credibly blame Universal Credit for their own mistake. The £1,500 grant would clearly put more money in taxi drivers’ pockets.

“We’re also hearing of widespread confusion because drivers are being asked to prove they’ve lost half their turnover when the financial year doesn’t end for another three months.

“The SNP are great at promising funding but they’re appalling at actually delivering it. The delays in getting cash out the door are unacceptable.

“Businesses are always left to last with this SNP Government. The Scottish Conservatives will keep challenging them to deliver on their promises and protect Scottish jobs.”

Notes

The details of the taxi fund state that to be eligible, you must not be in “receipt of state benefits payments” and you must “have experienced loss of income (50% of turnover, compared with 2019) and incurred overhead costs and expenses.” (link).

Richard Halliday’s comments are here - https://news.stv.tv/west-central/i-feel-cheated-by-the-government-over-taxi-driver-grant?top

Pat Rafferty’s comments are here - https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/19020820.coronavirus-scotland-taxi-drivers-claimed-benefits-disqualified-grant/

Business support statistics:

Sturgeon said at FMQs: “Of the £715 million that has been allocated to business support since October, £600 million is live and the vast majority of other funds go live this month” (Official Report, 13 January 2021, link).

On Friday, Scottish Government statistics revealed just £55 million had been paid out: https://www.gov.scot/news/more-than-gbp-55-million-paid-in-business-support/

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