Taxi and private hire drivers took to the streets in Edinburgh in protest at a lack of promised financial support from the Scottish government. The protest outside the Scottish Parliament was organised by trade union Unite Scotland to coincide with a meeting of the Rural Affairs and Connectivity Committee at Holyrood.
In a Unite survey, more than one third of drivers said they had been unable to access any government support during the pandemic. And the union is calling on Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to release the £19 million in aid that she promised last week. It is demanding a financial package similar to that in Northern Ireland, where a specific grant of £1,500 has been given to taxi drivers.
Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The mobile protest outside the Scottish Parliament is designed to raise awareness over the plight of taxi drivers across our nation. It’s estimated that there are around 36,000 taxi drivers across Scotland with the majority of them having dramatic cuts in their income with around a third having had access to no government support at all. We need urgent clarification and the release of the promised support from last week and a commitment to continue to support the trade.”
Last month First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a £30 million discretionary fund for councils to deliver extra business support to those in need, including taxi drivers. But since then there has been no offer of funding. “We’re still waiting,” one driver told Professional Driver.
Edinburgh Cab Branch Secretary Jacqueline Dunn told local media: “Unfortunately due to Covid we have lost about 85% of our work. We have no support coming from local authorities or government and our taxi trade is in desperate crisis. Today we are asking the Scottish Government to give us that help that we desperately need. We have drivers who are basically on the poverty line.”
She continued: “Only a small percentage of drivers can access government grants but because we don’t have premises that is not available to us. There is the self-employment scheme but owners who still have fixed costs do not have the help that the owners of a pub or a restaurant would get. Some drivers go out – maybe from 6 in the morning until 6 at night and walk away with about £50 if they’re lucky.”
Dunn concluded: “Usually this time of year is very busy with Christmas parties and tourists so there is a massive drop. We ask the Scottish Government to sit down with us and realise that our business is unique and that we need a tailored grant system for our drivers.”