'Today I’ve been out since 9am and made £50. That is less than minimum wage' - Furious taxi drivers protest outside Holyrood to demand more cash help

Furious Edinburgh cabbies will protest outside Holyrood on Wednesday to demand more “tangible” cash help, after a survey showed taxi drivers are struggling to survive.

By Jolene Campbell
Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 9:44 pm
An Edinburgh taxi driver.
An Edinburgh taxi driver.

Drivers with over 30 vehicles will stage a rolling demonstration at the roundabouts outside the Scottish Parliament between 11.30am and noon.

Union reps said cabbies are fuming that a fund announced by the First Minister on November 17 to provide cash help to businesses severely hit by Covid-19 will see drivers in Scotland get just a one-off payment of up to £500.

Drivers said they are “shocked and disappointed” after it was disclosed at a meeting with civil servants on Tuesday that the £30 million discretionary fund for businesses and taxi drivers would mean that for 38,000 drivers across Scotland payments would be no more than £500, even if drivers are full-time owner operators.

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They also slammed delays getting the cash to drivers, which COSLA confirmed has not yet been released to Local Authorities.

The Union has repeated its calls for more dedicated cash help in what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the trade, after a survey from the union criticised ‘loopholes’ in a number of Scottish and UK government schemes which have led to drivers being unable to access financial support if drivers don’t have rateable premises or operate business bank accounts. If drivers are not in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits then they are also ineligible for a self-isolation support grant.

Responses to the survey of over 200 taxi drivers has revealed the devastating impact on the trade, with drivers regularly working 16-17-hour days with a shift being determined as having been ‘good’ if £50 is cleared.

It showed 30 per cent of drivers have not got any financial help from government support schemes.

Unite Scotland is demanding the Scottish Government adopt similar targeted schemes such as in Northern Ireland and Wales to support the trade.

In Northern Ireland, taxi drivers can get a £1500 grant as part of a support fund. They are also asking for the suspension of licensing fees that are payable to local councils for the next 12 months and called on Holyrood to engage directly with finance companies to negotiate a reduction in increased debt due to payment holidays.

Andy Taylor, an Edinburgh taxi driver said: “We are so angry. It’s clear they don't understand what we are up against, especially owner operators who have significant costs. They have asked us how we want the money from this fund to be given out. That’s not the point. It’s about getting the right help to people. We need something more tangible. Today, I’ve been out since 9am and made £50. That is less than minimum wage.”

A COSLA spokesperson said: “We are expecting a scheme to be forthcoming from Scottish Government, to be delivered by local government, and this scheme will provide grants to taxi drivers, the criteria for which is currently being worked on by Scottish Government.

“Local Government wants to see the resource get to where it is needed as quickly as possible and therefore it is hoped to have this scheme and running as soon as is possible.”

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