THERE is a lot going on in the world right now, and a lot of things to be anxious about. With the Covid-19 crisis showing, hopefully, some signs of improvement, I fear we are now seeing the real economic emergency that is going to hit every community in Scotland.

I have written before about my concerns that the UK support schemes have not reached the most vulnerable, and I am more and more concerned. The UK Government was quick to take the plaudits (mine included) for swift action, but has since failed to refine the schemes to target those in real need, and we risk a lost generation. The UK schemes matter because without independence, Scotland does not have the borrowing powers we need to raise finance in the way the UK is able to. So while we work towards independence we need to make sure the UK’s schemes are working for Scotland. I am less and less convinced they are.

Two organisations really need your support – Excluded UK and ForgottenLTD. Excluded UK established itself to represent the estimated three million individuals who are excluded from Government support, accounting for some 10% of the UK’s workforce, but who are also the most entrepreneurial and dynamic.

If we are to protect and grow out of Covid, we need all the tools in Scotland to do it and to support businesses through this shock, and then to incentivise smart green low-carbon inclusive growth. Amazingly, the UK schemes do not cover those in between jobs or due to start new jobs after March 19; the newly self-employed and new businesses; the self-employed with either low profits or profits above £50,000; workers in less than 50% self-employment; new parents on parental leave; workers on PAYE freelance short-term contracts; low-investment start-ups; small limited company owner-directors; and businesses otherwise ineligible for grants.

These businesses are part of the fabric of our communities and are a vital part of Scotland’s economy. The UK support via the furlough scheme has not touched them, and often the only support has come via the Scottish Government scheme administered via business rates (which has gone down well but also needs some refinement to bring more in). The much trumpeted UK bounce-back loans are just that – loans – and debt that businesses uncertain of the future are wary of taking on.

ForgottenLTD is a parallel organisation which seeks to highlight the injustice in excluding companies because they are limited and the owners take salary by way of dividend. This is a perfectly standard way to run a business, and it is flatly unfair that they are not included in the schemes. These small businesses had the passion and imagination to create something new, people who left the comfort and security of a full-time job to forge a new path. Without support for small businesses, others jobs may disappear. This Tory Government is letting down the risk-takers, innovators, creators and entrepreneurs that you would have expected would be their poster people. I hope there will be a change of heart, and there are solutions available.

The UK Government has already borrowed massively and it needs to better target that support. We’re seeing what, to my untrained eye, looks like industrial-scale abuses of the furlough scheme, with a few big employers surely acting in bad faith against their employees and the taxpayer. We need a specific recognition also for seasonal tourism businesses, and make the distinction between tourism and seasonal operations. Tourism businesses in our cities will have a degree of a year-round trade but small operations in places like Tyndrum or Crianlarich have a limited season and rely on the summer to last the year. Covid hit in March, just as things were opening up. Without farming and tourism, big chunks of Scotland will suffer and that needs specific support we have not seen to date.

BUT it is not just about the UK spending borrowed money. Where UK inaction has been unforgivable has been in allowing insurance companies to be slow in living up to their obligations. I have lost count of the businesses that have come to me having taken out Business Interruption Insurance, only to find that it does not cover this business interruption. I fully understand the insurance companies are facing a crisis too, which is where again we need the UK to stand behind the insurance companies.

There are those in Scotland who are trying to play politics with Covid – the Tories have been shameless. I’m doing my best not to, and I hope I have given praise to the UK Chancellor where it is due. But the gloss is coming off the UK schemes faster and faster, and under the current halfway house of devolution the Scottish Government has very limited powers and budget to fill the gaps in the UK scheme. The UK has borrowed to fund the support schemes, as would an independent Scotland, but the UK schemes have missed out crucial parts of Scotland’s economy.

I think we could do better. Short of independence, I will keep pushing for a change of heart from the UK Government, and if they change tack I’ll be sure to welcome it. If they do not, they’ll prove that Scotland would be better off independent in Europe.