Scotland’s finance secretary has “serious concerns” about the wait self-employed people face to access UK Government support.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans for grants covering 80% of a self-employed worker’s average monthly profit up to £2500 to help boost finances during the coronavirus outbreak.
However, the new scheme may not be available until June, prompting criticism of the waiting times facing Scotland’s self-employed, which official figures put at 320,000.
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “Along with a range of organisations and hundreds of thousands of self-employed people across Scotland, we have been calling on the UK Government to introduce a package of measures for the self-employed similar to the support they announced for employees.
“I am pleased to see this announcement today and I recognise the difficulties in administering the system, but I have serious concerns about how long people will have to wait for this much-needed support.
“Many self-employed people are on low incomes with bills to pay and families to feed, and they cannot afford to wait until June for this vital support.
“More urgency is required whether through speeding up payments or the benefits system.”
Both the Scottish Greens and the SNP reiterated calls for the introduction of a universal basic income to help those struggling financially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrats were among those who welcomed the support package but expressed concerns over potentially lengthy waits as did the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).
Rozanne Foyer, STUC general secretary designate, said: “This is a largely welcome intervention which will provide relief for many, though there is still a significant potential time delay between now and likely payment time.
“This could cause real hardship. We need to get this going and more quickly than the Chancellor suggested. Unions stand ready to help make this happen.”
Liz Cameron, Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive, stressed the grants “must flow quickly” to support those eligible in Scotland, adding: “In the main, this support scheme will be a great relief to the vast bulk of the 320,000 self-employed people in Scotland who are essential to the fabric of our economy particularly in rural areas.”
Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “Today’s announcement means that people who work for themselves – the entrepreneurs who drive innovation and economic growth – will have the very best chance of picking up their businesses once this current crisis is over.
“We are undoubtedly facing incredibly difficult times. But the UK Government is doing everything possible to support individuals, businesses, and communities. And I know all of us will also be doing what we can to support family, friends and neighbours. Together, we will get through this.”