Around 12,900 people work for themselves in Dumfries & Galloway according to official figures analysed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), ranking the area fourth in Scotland in terms of the proportion of self-employment.
But the small business campaign group is warning that the covid crisis has hit the self-employed hard and that Dumfries & Galloways’ MSPs returned at the election must work to protect this vital group.
Scotland-wide FSB research reveals that three fifths of business owners in Scotland say that the covid crisis has made self-employment less attractive. Around a third of small businesses were forced to close during the crisis, and thousands of Scottish firms have taken on billions of pounds of government-backed debt.
FSB wants the next administration at Holyrood to pilot a new collective insurance approach for self-employed individuals who could not otherwise access sick pay. They also want policymakers in Edinburgh to provide maternity, paternity and adoption payments to the self-employed via Social Security Scotland.
Paul O’Keeffe, a business owner in Dumfries & Galloway and FSB’s lead volunteer in the area, said: “The coronavirus crisis has hit Scotland’s self-employed and small business community for six. While governments in Edinburgh and London argue they’ve done everything in their power to mitigate the impact of this crisis, there’s no doubt the pandemic will have an enduring impact on this group that will be vital to the recovery.
“There are nearly twice as many self-employed people in Dumfries & Galloway as the council’s employees. But our representatives at Holyrood haven’t spent enough time discussing how to support and protect these 12,900 workers.”
The local and independent business membership body also wants the next Scottish Government to deliver a Small Business Recovery Act. These new laws would be designed to ensure smaller firms win a fair share of public contracts. They would also establish a new small business advisor team at the heart of government.
Hisashi Kuboyama, FSB’s development manager for the west of Scotland, said: “The events of the last year and a half have undermined the strength of self-employed people and the small business community in Dumfries & Galloway. That’s a real concern, because it’ll be these same operators will be vital to turning around the local economies of places like Moffat and Newton Stewart.
“No matter the colour of their rosette, we’re looking for candidates to pledge to help to get these local firms back on their feet. We need our next local representatives at Holyrood to do everything in their power to give our vital local businesses a fighting chance.”