A PLEA for urgent financial help for self-employed and unemployed people has been made by union leaders and the SNP.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been told to make sure no-one is left behind by the measures taken by the UK Government to protect people’s incomes during the coronavirus pandemic.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has now called for a meeting with Sunak about support for the self-employed, unemployed and those in need of social security payment.

“There are millions of self-employed and unemployed people struggling to get by in the face of coronavirus,” said Blackford.

“They are under pressure and need to know we’ve got their backs.
We welcomed the measures that have been introduced so far – but the self-employed and unemployed also need the security of a guaranteed income. The UK Government must introduce a package of financial support for them to ensure no-one is left behind.”

Four key measures should be introduced, according to Blackford, including making sure that everyone has a guaranteed income. He said the simplest way to provide support for everyone, including self-employed and unemployed people, was to use the tax and welfare system to put money directly in people’s pockets through a Universal Basic Income, reverse National Insurance, or another similar mechanism.

He also wants the same support for the self-employed as has been announced for employees by including them in the coronavirus job retention scheme.

In addition, Blackford said the UK’s Statutory Sick Pay rate should be raised to the EU national average, with entitlement expanded to the self-employed and those under the earnings threshold.

Welfare protections should also be strengthened by increasing child benefit and making Universal Credit more flexible through a range of practical measures.

“I’ve written to the Chancellor to request an urgent meeting over the weekend, or first thing Monday, to discuss the SNP’s proposals to introduce a guaranteed income for everyone, raise statutory sick pay to the EU average, and strengthen welfare protections,” said Blackford.

“The Chancellor has listened so far and I urge him to get back round the table and consider the proposals from the SNP and others. We must do whatever it takes to ensure we support all our people in this unprecedented emergency.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the union Prospect, added: “The Government needs to wake up to the real concerns of freelancers and self-

employed workers worried about paying the bills and keeping safe.

“The freelancers we represent as a union deserve something similar to the 80% of salary support the Government is offering to businesses to keep our employed members in work.

“If we want the country to get through this together, no-one can be left out or left behind because of inaction by government.

“Further delays won’t cut it in this crisis. We need action now.”

Meanwhile, shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw and the Scottish Retail Consortium have called for clarification over the key worker status of retail and pharmaceutical workers.

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement of their key worker scheme, Stewart Forrest,

Usdaw’s Scottish divisional officer, has again written MSP John Swinney to seek assurances they are covered by it.

He asked: “Could you provide clarity on this for our members and for the local authorities at the earliest opportunity so that the supply of food and medicine in Scotland is not disrupted?”

School provision is to be made for the children of key workers.