For Government, there should be two simple priorities during this pandemic; the first is to protect people in our communities by preventing the virus from spreading, the second is to protect jobs and livelihoods.
Healthy communities need as close to full employment as possible, not just because families need to put food on the table, but also because a failure to protect jobs has far-reaching adverse effects. Countless academic studies have shown a strong link between personal, family and community health and people having a sense of purpose.
It matters to the fabric of our society. That’s why I’ve spent so much of my time as your MP arguing for ways to protect jobs and ensuring people have financial help to navigate this emergency.
Seven months into this pandemic and over 3 million people are still getting no support from the UK Government. The Scottish Government is doing what it can to plug the gaps in support but, it’s gone beyond the funding it’s had from Westminster, and without borrowing powers cannot go much further.
Ordinary folk in our community abandoned because they don’t fit into one of the Chancellors narrow groups. They are newly self-employed, freelancers or owners of micro-business and those often forced by circumstance to work in the gig economy. They are the photographers, musicians, drivers, small business owners and young entrepreneurs just starting out. They pay their taxes, they’ve done everything right and need a safety net in their hour of need like everyone else. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a little trickier to work out how to estimate their support, as HMRC claim – this is about doing what is right.
These 3 million people have no or little work and have had no support from the Chancellor. Many cannot even claim Universal Credit because of its failings and inflexibility as a system.
They are getting more desperate by the day and need their safety net. I have raised their plight many times with the Chancellor and will continue to do so. Colleagues, including some Tory backbenchers, have joined me, in these calls. We’ve offered countless solutions, but the Chancellor seems determined not to act – just as they have refused to give the Scottish Government borrowing powers so it can step in.
Last week, I asked the Minister if it is simply the case that they don’t care – once again, he chose to duck the question.
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