Reopen grant scheme to support taxi drivers, union demands

Unite Scotland has accused the Scottish Government of 'withholding' £19m in unawarded grants.

Reopen grant scheme to support taxi drivers, union demands Getty Images

A taxi driver grant scheme should be reopened because a third of cabbies have missed out, Unite Scotland has demanded.

The trade union has accused the Scottish Government of “withholding” £19m in unawarded grants from the £57m Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund that has now closed.

But Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has instead pledged to give a second grant worth £1500 to taxi drivers who received the first one – if the SNP government is re-elected.

About 25,333 eligible drivers out of an estimated 38,000 across Scotland applied for the £1500 grant, according to the union.

Unite’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty has also warned of a postcode lottery for a “top up” of coronavirus support awarded to taxi drivers by local authorities.

Several councils have announced discretionary grants, including Aberdeen and Dundee city councils which will offer additional grants of £1000 for taxi and private hire drivers, while Angus Council has launched £2500 worth of extra financial support.

Mr Rafferty said: “Despite the tentative easing of lockdown restrictions, the taxi trade remains decimated by the pandemic and will be one of the last trades to recover.

“Taxi operators and drivers are desperate for help, and the withholding of around £19m is a disgrace.

“At every turn the Scottish Government has been dragged kicking and screaming into giving support to the taxi trade, which is in crisis.

“We are demanding that the Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund be reopened to allow an additional top-up grant from this central pot of cash.

“The reality is that there is a postcode lottery in terms of the levels of support for the trade.”

Unite, which represents operators and drivers across the trade, has also been campaigning for the Scottish Government to deliver a £10,000 grant for each taxi operator, equivalent to support given to other small business owners.

Mr Rafferty added: “Urgent and immediate help is required before thousands of businesses become unsustainable

“For many people taxis are a vital part of the transport network, but without help many will not survive the Covid-19 crisis.”

On Twitter, Forbes wrote: “During the election period, I cannot make announcements on behalf of Scot Gov about business grants, including for taxi drivers. However, I can confirm that if re-elected we will double the taxi grant to those already in receipt of the first £1500 grant.

“Our business support schemes exceed the consequentials we’ve received, and we’ve gone further to help a number of industries. We will use any funds available in the taxi scheme to deliver a second grant to all recipients of the first £1500 grant.

“This is in response to public comments today about Scot Gov not agreeing to further taxi grants, that’s partly because announcements cannot be made during the pre-election period.”