Taxi drivers slam government support as union warns cash 'won't make a dent'

Taxi drivers say they are bitterly disappointed at a support fund announced by the Scottish government, as union leaders warned the cash is “nowhere near enough”.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes has issued a statement confirming a support fund of £57 million will be launched this week, enough to provide grants of £1,500 to all of Scotland’s 38,000 taxi and private hire drivers.

The fund is treble the amount announced by the First Minister on November 17 to provide cash help to businesses severely hit by Covid-19.

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But drivers and union leaders have claimed that the one-off payment is short-changing the trade, warning many face mounting debts to keep their vehicles on the road while takings are down by up to eighty per cent.

Andy Taylor at taxi drivers children's outingAndy Taylor at taxi drivers children's outing
Andy Taylor at taxi drivers children's outing

It comes after a number of politicians blasted the Scottish government for failing to help struggling taxi drivers. Last week Ruth Davidson accused the government of being “great at making announcements” but failing to get vital financial support into hands of businesses.

Andy Taylor, a driver from Edinburgh, said: “It’s good that they increased the funding but its one payment. It just feels like a kick in the teeth. Most drivers left on the road now will be owner operators like me so have huge overheads just to keep a vehicle on the road. I have had to borrow a bug sum, after I got letter from debt collection company. I feel like the world is closing in. It costs me about £1400 a month to keep vehicle on road but I make about 200 a week just now, if I’m lucky. The debts keep mounting up. I feel helpless, desperate and is if I am letting my family down. But we are trying our hardest with very little help available.”

A recent survey from Unite revealed around 30 per cent of drivers have not got any financial help from government support schemes.

The survey laid bare the struggle of drivers regularly working 16-17-hour days with a shift being determined as having been ‘good’ if £50 is cleared.

Jacqueline Dunn, UniteJacqueline Dunn, Unite
Jacqueline Dunn, Unite

Jacqueline Dunn, branch secretary for Unite, said: “We welcome the funding has increased overall but it’s nowhere near enough. It won’t make a significant difference.

"Many are in debt, accumulated since March when the first lockdown hit. I know some already bankrupt. I had to stop driving taxis after Christmas and get another job.

"The trade is on it’s knees. Most are bringing in about 20 per cent of usual income, while they still have 100 per cent of costs. A one off £1500 payment is nowhere near enough. It won’t even make a dent.”

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Unite launched a petition this week calling for drivers to be eligible to access the Scottish government’s Strategic Framework Business Fund, which would see owners getting payments every four weeks for as long as restrictions are in place.

Ms Forbes said: “Following the introduction of tighter regulations at Christmas I have trebled the budget originally announced for this fund to £57 million, enough to provide grants of £1,500 to all of Scotland’s 38,000 taxi and private hire drivers.

“It will help to support the taxi trade by augmenting existing support and assisting drivers in meeting fixed costs.”

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