South Scotland MSP Emma Harper, following contact from a number of newly self-employed constituents across Dumfries and Galloway who have as yet not received any government support, took their case directly to the First Minister during her update to the Scottish Parliament on the COVID-19 situation.
In the South Scotland MSPs question, she raised the case of newly self-employed people across the region who provide Close Contact services – such as Driving Instructor James Devlin – who has not received any Government support because he, like many others, is not able to evidence his annual income because he has been self-employed for less than 12 months.
Ms Harper welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that there is to be a new fund for those newly self-employed and those who provide Close Contact services, but Ms Harper stressed her concern over how long it may take to get this money into the bank accounts of her constituents.
In response, the First Minister stressed the importance of business support and committed to having the details of two new funds – each to the value of £15m – published by the end of this month. She also provided information on the discretion which is available to local authorities to support business and self-employed people.
Commenting, Ms Harper said:
“I was contacted by constituents across our region who have been forced to stop trading due to the regulations which are in place and required to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, these newly self-employed constituents have not yet received any Government support because they are unable to evidence their income stream. I therefore raised these cases – including that of Mr Devlin – with the First Minister to obtain an update on what is and can be done to support these constituents.
“I welcome that, in response to my question, the First Minister gave a commitment to have the details of the new Self-employment and Close Contact funds published by the end of this month so that money can reach the bank accounts of my constituents. I will also be corresponding with D&G Council as a matter of urgency to encourage them to use the discretionary funding the First Minister alluded to in her answer to me to support constituents in similar situations, and those who have not yet received any support.
“Small business and self-employment people are crucial in our region. It is right that these grants are made available at pace to support those who have not yet received any support, but who contribute much to our economy. I urge any constituents across the region to contact me for support at any time.”
Dumfries based Driving Instructor, James Devlin, added:
“I am grateful to Emma Harper MSP for raising my case, and the case of those in a similar situation to me, with the First Minister. I haven’t received any support at all during the pandemic, despite being forced to stop working, because I cannot provide evidence of my income stream due to only being self-employed for less than 12 months.
“As Emma has done, I welcome the additional funding announcement from the Scottish Government for people in my situation, and urge them to get these details out as soon as possible so we can start to get the money in the bank.”
Dumfries based driving instructor, Mr James Devlin, pictured with his children.