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More than 491 taxi drivers and private hire drivers working in Arran and across North Ayrshire will be granted three times the amount of Scottish Government support they had last year.
Eligible drivers will now be able to claim a £1,500 grant to cover fixed costs as part of a funding package worth £739,500 which will be used to help support the drivers and the industry.
North Ayrshire Council will begin contacting eligible drivers to brief them on their entitlement and ask them to provide supporting information and bank account details. They do not need to apply, or contact the local authority.
Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson said: ‘I am delighted the Scottish Government has increased the funding available to taxi and private hire drivers. Many have gone above and beyond the call of duty by providing transport for key workers and taking people safely to hospital appointments.
‘We have 491 taxi drivers and two private hire drivers and each will receive the full £1,500 grant, amounting to £739,500 across North Ayrshire and Arran.
‘This increase in support recognises what has been a tough time for taxi drivers due to lockdown restrictions.
‘Many fixed costs have still remained for drivers, such as general maintenance, licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments.
‘I’m sure that NAC will contact firms quickly to ensure that drivers receive their grants as soon as possible.’
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth also welcomed the announcement saying that it was ‘welcome but long overdue’.
Mr Smyth said: ‘The news of this £1,500 grant will be very welcome for the hundreds of taxi drivers across the area who have really been suffering because of the ongoing pandemic.
‘Taxi drivers have seen a massive drop in passenger numbers since March 2020 and I know this cash will be a big help.
‘I was the first to raise this matter with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament back in November. At the time I asked her to urgently consider specific support for our forgotten taxi drivers before thousands became unemployed, and yet it has taken until January for this fund to be announced.
‘For many, it will be long overdue and there will be disappointment that Scotland’s taxi drivers are being short changed by the Scottish Government, given that the grants will be just £1,500 compared to up to £4,000 in Wales from the Welsh Government.
‘Our taxi drivers have been there for us throughout the pandemic, including during the first lockdown and this latest one too. It is only right that they receive support.
‘This pandemic has hit a lot of sectors very hard and many of our hard-working taxi drivers have been facing financial ruin as business has plummeted.
‘My constituency is predominantly rural, and a lot of people rely on their local taxi service to get around, from going to the shops to attending vital medical appointments.
‘However, as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, many drivers face going out of business which would be a huge disaster, both for them and the people who rely on their services.
‘This grant is administered through local authorities and taxi drivers will be contacted directly and invited to claim the cash, which I hope they will do without delay.’
Information on eligibility can be found at www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-taxi-and-private-hire-driver-support-fund
To date the Scottish Government has allocated £3 billion in business support to various industries since the start of the pandemic on top of support available through the UK Government.