Self-employed traders in Scotland can “breathe a sigh of relief” after the UK Government pledged to pay out 80 per cent of their average income to protect businesses from Covid-19.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that self-employed traders impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak  will receive 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 per month.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Chancellor announces help for the self-employed.Camley's Cartoon: Chancellor announces help for the self-employed.

The money will be available to self-employed people “no later” than the beginning of June.

Mr Sunak said: “I know that many self employed people are deeply anxious about the support available to them.

“You have not been forgotten. We will not leave you behind. We all stand together.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Government to pay 80% of self-employed people's average earnings

Mr Sunak said that the proposals for the self employed were “deliverable and fair” and would cover people with trading profits of up to £50,000.

In order to be eligible, traders must make the majority of their income from self-employment.

Official figures show that there are more than 320,000 self-employed people in Scotland.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has called for support to be offered to the self employed, has welcomed the news.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Thousands of people who work for themselves in Scotland will now breathe a sigh of relief.

“This scheme will provide lifeline cash to self-employed people, with help targeted at those on low and moderate incomes.

“We need to vanquish the myth that those that work for themselves are universally wealthy. People like the local handyman, cleaner and fitness coach will benefit from this support.”

He added: “Like many of these government interventions, it will take a number of weeks for this programme to deliver. Therefore, those who qualify should try their banks for interim finance if required, while doing what they can to manage their outgoings.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Fears of surge in poverty as economy hit

“This will be much easier said than done, but with help on its way many of the self-employed will rest a little easier.”

The Chancellor said that business support so far has been “coherent, coordinated and comprehensive”.

Mr McRae added: “Throughout this crisis, we’ve found ministers in Edinburgh and London sympathetic and approachable.

“These governments deserve credit for delivering support to business who face difficult circumstances that are neither under their control nor their fault.”

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce have welcomed the announcement - but acknowledged the complex challenge faced by the government in pledging support.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The Chancellor has managed to deliver a support package for the self-employed that prioritises the good over the perfect.

"It is a complex issue and we acknowledge the challenge the Treasury has faced to make sure they aren’t forgotten.

READ MORE: Scots self employed advised to seek bank support as government support might takes weeks to deliver

“In the main, this support scheme will be a great relief to the vast bulk of the 320,000 self-employed people in Scotland who are essential to the fabric of our economy particularly in rural areas. Our plea now is that cash must flow quickly to support our businesses, employees and communities.”

Citizens Advice Scotland has welcomed the announcement by the Chancellor.

CAS social justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said: “Self-employed workers deserve the same level of protection as everyone else.

"We know that many of them have been concerned over the last few days that they were being left behind as other groups were given support, but that has now been put right and we commend the Government for these latest steps.
 
“There is still more to be done, and the Government must continue to listen and act upon the issues that people are facing. The CAB network is here to help anyone who needs advice on any issue.”

But freelancers have raised concerns the package will come too late for them, being unveiled some time after the UK Government's initial support for other small and medium businesses.

Matt Dowling, CEO and founder of Freelancer Club, which represents more than 40,000 freelancers, said: "The key question is why did this support take so long? I've spoken to thousands of freelancers over the last week and the collective despair has been palpable.

"Some have already had to make heartbreaking decisions to stay afloat. And the impact on their mental health has been stark. 

"We do however welcome these measures and urge the Chancellor to expedite access to this support. Waiting for this announcement has set freelancers apart from the rest of the country and moved them closer to the precipice by a whole week." 

He added: "Not having the system up and running until June could prove critical and we urge the Treasury to move this deadline sooner.

"The self-employed and freelance workforce are a vital element of our economy. Until now, they've been treated like an afterthought. They deserved and deserve so much better."