Scottish Government demands Covid-19 help for self-employed

Fiona Hyslop and Kate Forbes have sent a joint letter calling for Rishi Sunak to offer more help to self-employed workers.

Financial plea: Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Getty Images
Financial plea: Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The Scottish Government has called on the chancellor to offer more help to self-employed workers impacted by coronavirus.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, economy secretary Fiona Hyslop and finance Secretary Kate Forbes demanded the Jobs Retention Scheme be expanded to the self-employed.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, UK employers can access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to £2500 per month.

The UK Government has also removed the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor to allow those who are self employed to more readily access the state benefit.

However, the Scottish Government letter says this “does not go far enough”.

The letter states: “The goal should be a more comprehensive version of the Jobs Retention Scheme that encompasses the self-employed.

“The action taken in other countries suggest there are credible mechanisms that can support the self-employed. In Norway and Denmark, wage support schemes have been extended to cover the self-employed by covering their lost incomes based on earnings in previous years.”

The letter also calls for means-testing for Universal Credit to be relaxed to “ensure that the self-employed, whether with savings or other household income, are not denied support.”

There are 330,000 self-employed workers in Scotland.

The ministers also urged the chancellor to “change the rules so that more people can access Statutory Sick Pay and its value is increased so it provides a far more effective safety net”.

“I welcome the more regular Ministerial contact that is now happening to support our collective response across the economy and public finances,” the letter adds.

“I understand there will be both a Finance Ministers’ and an Economy Ministers’ quadrilateral discussion this week, which we will join for our respective interests. Our officials will also be speaking tomorrow and it is important that additional support for the self-employed is on the agenda for that discussion.

“We stand ready to work with you to develop an effective support package and I will continue to encourage employers to keep staff in their work and take the responsible steps that are critical for our public health and economy.

“I will also continue to encourage business to business prompt payment of invoices, recognising the temptation to improve company cash flow by delaying payment.

“The Scottish Government will of course continue to ensure we pay our suppliers as early as we possibly can.”

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