Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has highlighted the continuing plight of small businesses in the isles during a debate last night on the government’s Finance Bill. Speaking remotely during the session, Mr Carmichael highlighted the example of an accountant in his constituency who estimated that 75% of his clients were unable to access support through government schemes.
Mr Carmichael said:
“I want to preserve and protect the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the economy in the northern isles. We are overwhelmingly a small business economy. I hear so often from the builders, plumbers, electricians, joiners and decorators—people who may be working out of their house or the back of a van—and they tell me that the schemes that are available are not going to help them.”
“I also want to protect the people who are part of the important visitor economy here in the northern isles. Just recently, I spoke to someone at a local hotel who told me that, having come through the six difficult months of the winter, they were now looking forward to the six productive months. However, they have had to close, and they see little prospect of opening again… until next Easter.
“People are telling me time and again that the help that is available is not going to work for them. One chartered accountant in my constituency recently told me that he reckoned that about 75% of his clients would get no help from the available schemes. That is why, when it came to the Chancellor’s statement today, I [asked] him to consider the introduction of a universal basic income.”
Commenting afterwards, Mr Carmichael said:
"The way in which we work has changed massively over the last few decades. We have seen more people become self-employed, more on zero hours contracts, more small businesses have become incorporated instead of being sole traders or partnerships. We need a scheme that will help them all and not just those on the traditional employment model."
"The idea of a universal basic income is one that I would never have considered in the past. For the duration of this crisis, however, we need to look at it seriously. It may mean giving some people money that they do not need but that can easily be clawed back through the tax system. This is the basis on which the state pension works – a state income could work in the same way."
"Unless we are prepared to embrace new thinking like this then we risk making our own economic recovery slower and harder to achieve."