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In recent days, the Chancellor has already outlined support for business, which the SNP has welcomed. In Scotland, that support has been passed on in full by our Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes. However, I remain concerned that not enough support is being mobilised for sole traders, freelancers and the self-employed. Today though, our focus is rightly on people, many of whom are already self-isolating or moving to work from home, if indeed they can. But bills are still coming in and rent payments are being sought, and so I welcome the news that some support will be put in place, for example, for payment for energy bills. The question is who is eligible for that, and will that go far enough. Will the Government use the tax system to put thousands of pounds in people’s pockets by way of an emergency universal basic income? Will the Government extend statutory sick pay to the 2 million people who earn less than £118 a week and benchmark it to at least the real living wage?
Firms are already starting to make staff redundant, but we need to stem the flow of that immediately, and today. The Government should introduce a statutory retention scheme to provide firms with financial support to keep staff in employment during this uncertain time.
Now more than ever, our social security system needs to kick in. To protect families impacted by hardship and strengthen automatic stabilisers that support demands in the economy, does the Minister agree that the main adult rate of out of work support in universal credit and other benefits, including carer’s allowance, should rise by a third to £100 per week?
We are in the midst of a national emergency the likes of which I have never seen before. How this generation of politicians responds to the crisis will be how history judges us. During the financial crisis of 2008, no expense was spared to bail out the banks, so today with the coronavirus outbreak we must similarly be prepared to bail out household budgets at this time of economic crisis. It calls for us all to rise to the occasion.