UP to 321,000 people in Scotland could receive a cash boost from Westminster to help mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus on the self-employed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed a package of measures to give people who work for themselves the same level of income protection that salaried employees will receive if their wages are adversely impacted by the pandemic.

He said the measures were some of “the most generous in the world” and hoped they would provide “reassurance and support” to those who are self employed.

However critics say many people cannot afford to wait until June - when the payments are scheduled to start hitting bank accounts - and others say there will be many people left out.

As many as 3.8 million people across the country could be set to benefit from the scheme, which will see them receive 80 per cent of their usual monthly income for three months, up to £2500.

In Scotland, around 321,000 people are self-employed, with just under 230,000 people full-time.

Anyone who has filed their tax return for the last financial year, who relies on self-employment for at least half of their income and who earns an annual average profit of £50,00 or less will be eligible for the payments.

For those who have not yet filed a tax return the deadline is to be extended for four weeks to allow them to receive the funding.

Those who benefit from the scheme must be able to show they have lost out financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, with anyone who has become self employed recently, and who does not have any previous tax returns, ineligible. Instead they must rely on the Universal Credit system, Mr Sunak said.

Speaking during the daily government coronavirus briefing, Mr Sunak said: “Self-employed people are a crucial part of the UK’s workforce who’ve understandably been looking for reassurance and support during this national emergency.”

He added: “The package for the self-employed I’ve outlined today is one of the most generous in the world that has been announced so far.

“It targets support to those who need help most, offering the self-employed the same level of support as those in work. Together with support packages for businesses and for workers, I am confident we now have the measures in place to ensure we can get through this emergency together.”

The scheme has been welcomed by trade union and small business leaders, however some politicians say they have been too slow to implement, and have criticised the fact those eligible for the money will not see it until at least June.

Others say there will be many who “slip through the cracks” as they have recently become self-employed or who cannot show they have lost out directly due to the virus pandemic.

Questions have also been raised about the knock-on impact of the scheme on future tax rates, with the Chancellor hinting during his address that there would need to be a review of contributions made by the self-employed to ensure parity with salaried workers.

He said it was “now much harder to justify” tax breaks to the self-employed if they were receiving the same level of state support, and added that everyone would be “chipping in together to right the ship afterwards” once the crisis is over.

Around £9bn has been set aside to pay for the scheme, with HMRC staff primed to contact those who are eligible once the extended tax return deadline has passed.

A Treasury spokesman said last night that self-employed members of the public should not contact HMRC directly following the announcement, and they would be informed if they can apply and register their evidence via a new online portal being created for the scheme.

Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce praised Sunak’s handling of a “complex” situation, and 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.“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.”

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the self-employed will be able to “breathe a sigh of relief”.

He said: “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.

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said the measures would mean “that people who work for themselves – the entrepreneurs who drive innovation and economic growth – will have the very best chance of picking up their businesses once this current crisis is over. “

He added: “We are undoubtedly facing incredibly difficult times. But the UK Government is doing everything possible to support individuals, businesses, and communities. And I know all of us will also be doing what we can to support family, friends and neighbours. Together, we will get through this.”

Nimesh Shah, partner at accountancy and tax advisory firm Blick Rothenberg, warned that the scheme may not help as many people as the government claim.

He explained that the scheme did not appear to recognise people who operate as a business, despite being self-employed, for limited liability protection.

Shah said:”It was always going to be difficult for the Chancellor to design a scheme for the self-employed because there are too many variables in play, and it appears that it was too difficult to consider those operating through a company. It’s also another sign that the Government and HMRC do not favour self-employed persons using companies...The Chancellor proclaimed that the self-employed ‘have not been forgotten’ but a reasonable proportion will not eligible because of the conditions around the scheme.”

MP Ian Blackford,the SNP’s Westminster leader said the plans were still going to leave many people out of pocket, and called for the introduction of an emergency universal basic income.

He said: “It is extremely concerning that the people with bills to pay and families to feed will have to wait until June for the support they need now.

“Many self-employed people rely on a regular flow of income, including thousands from low-income households and key workers, and they need support now. However, the Chancellor’s delayed plans fail to deliver for many households already in difficulty.

“While they are being forced to wait for months, they are also being asked to apply to a Universal Credit regime which continues to have a five week wait. This is unacceptable and people will struggle to make ends meet.

“The UK government must use the tax and welfare system to provide a guaranteed income for everyone, and bring forward emergency Universal Basic Income - including increasing UK Statutory Sick Pay to the EU national average, including self-employed people in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and strengthening welfare protections by increasing Child Benefit and making Universal Credit more flexible.”

Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell agreed, adding: “My worry is that if people cannot get access to the Scheme until June it will simply be too late for millions... there is a real risk that without support until June the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.”