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Covid-19 (Economy)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I made it clear in my statement that more needs to be done than tackling the business rates issue through grants, however strong that package is. That is precisely because of the points that Richard Leonard makes. It is clear that self-employed people and freelancers, as well as people who are in precarious contracts, have real and distinct needs. Some issues can be dealt with by the hardship fund that has already been announced, and additional information will be made available tomorrow in statements by Cabinet colleagues.

However, in terms of a package that is particular to the people whom Richard Leonard mentioned, I think that two things need to happen. In response to his first point, I say that eligibility for statutory sick pay is required. The lowering of the ceiling for access to benefits via Jobcentre Plus is welcome, but there will be people who are still earning above a certain amount who are not eligible for benefits, which will have to be addressed.

We are, for businesses through the grants system, operating quickly with the resources that we have in order that we can help to support people who are in employment. However, when I met the Cabinet Secretary for Finance yesterday, I agreed that we need to do something specific for self-employed people and freelancers.

I take the opportunity to say that I expect money from the public sector to remain in the systems where contracts are deployed. For example, Creative Scotland, which operates in an area in which there are many self-employed artists and freelancers, is looking at ways to keep money in the system in order to honour contracts and ensure regular incomes.

There is more to be done by the Scottish Government, and there is also a requirement on the UK Government. That is one of the issues that I addressed in the quadrilateral meeting at which I spoke to a UK Government minister, this morning.