A new £1,500 grant for taxi drivers affected by a huge drop in passenger numbers due to the Covid-19 pandemic is ‘welcome but long overdue’, according to South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth.
The local MSP was first to raise the issue at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament back in November.
On 9 December the Scottish Government announced there would be “a £19m fund AND one-off grants for taxi drivers”. Today however, the Scottish Government said there would just be grants of £1,500.
Taxi drivers in Wales are set to receive grants of up to £4,000, prompting accusations that Scotland’s taxi drivers are being short changed by the Scottish Government. Crucially, the criteria excludes anyone who has applied for Universal Credit, despite many taxi drivers being forced to do so while waiting months for this announcement.
Colin Smyth said: “The news of this £1,500 grant will be very welcome for the hundreds of taxi drivers across the area who have really been suffering because of the ongoing pandemic.
“Taxi drivers have seen a massive drop in passenger numbers since March 2020 and I know this cash will be a big help.
“I was the first to raise this matter with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament back in November. At the time I asked her to urgently consider specific support for our forgotten taxi drivers before thousands became unemployed, and yet it has taken until January for this fund to be announced.
“For many, it will be long overdue and there will be disappointment that Scotland’s taxi drivers are being short changed by the Scottish Government, given that the grants will be just £1,500 compared to up to £4,000 in Wales from the Welsh Government. The criteria also excludes those who have had to apply for Universal Credit, and this seems very unfair because a lot will have been forced down that route while waiting for this announcement.
“Our taxi drivers have been there for us throughout the pandemic, including during the first lockdown and this latest one too, it is only right that they receive support.
“This pandemic has hit a lot of sectors very hard and many of our hard-working taxi drivers have been facing financial ruin as business has plummeted.
“My constituency is predominantly rural, and a lot of people rely on their local taxi service to get around, from going to the shops to attending vital medical appointments.
“However, as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, many drivers face going out of business which would be a huge disaster, both for them and the people who rely on their services.
“This grant is administered through local authorities and taxi drivers will be contacted directly and invited to claim the cash, which I hope they will do without delay.”