GDP could fall 33% as Universal Credit claims soar

The latest State of the Economy report published by the Scottish Government’s chief economist Gary Gillespie estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) in Scotland could fall by around 33% during the current period of social distancing.

This is similar to estimates from UK and international bodies such as the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Meanwhile, household claims for Universal Credit in Scotland have increased from an average of 20,000 per month in 2019 to over 110,000 between 1 March and 7 April.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Our response to COVID-19 is saving lives, but I am deeply aware that the pandemic is having an economic effect that is already being felt across Scotland.

“The Scottish Government is doing everything we can to support businesses at this very difficult time.

“We want Scotland to recover as quickly as possible from this outbreak, and that includes rebuilding our economy as quickly as is safely possible.

“None of us should be under any illusions about the scale of economic recovery and, as we have said before, no government will have all of those answers.

“That is why we have set up an independent advisory group to provide expert economic advice and this will be crucial to help us deal with the challenge of rebuilding our economy.”

Amid the surge in Universal Credit claims, the Scottish Government and the Citizens Advice network are launching a new campaign to raise awareness of the financial support available to people.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This huge increase in claims for Universal Credit demonstrates just how many people across the country are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are difficult and worrying times for everyone, with many people requiring financial support for the first time and even more pressure on those who were already struggling to make ends meet.

“It is welcome that people are claiming the support that they are entitled to from the DWP, and I would encourage people to look into what additional help is available.

“Even if you are not entitled to Universal Credit, there could be other assistance that you can access so it is worth checking.

“That’s why we’ve been working with the Citizens Advice network in Scotland to create this central source of information — with everything from guidance on benefits, right through to what you can do if you are worried about paying your mortgage or rent.”

Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “The Citizens Advice network in Scotland is known for always being there to help and the support we give will be more important than ever to help people avoid getting into crisis.

“There may also be lots of people who have never used our services before and it’s crucial that they know our information and advice is there for them too.

“Our national network of Citizens Advice Bureaux is still operating for those who need it – if you have been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help make sure you have access to all the income you are entitled to, as well as giving tailored advice about what’s on offer within local communities across Scotland.

“There’s increased demand for our advice on financial services, that’s why we’ve created dedicated COVID-19 content online so people get the information they need 24/7 and from the comfort of their own homes.

“We’ve also got a dedicated helpline for people who might not be able to access our services online.

“If you have been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and require free, confidential, financial support, please visit cas.org.uk or call 0800 028 1456.

“Local Citizens Advice Bureaux are situated around the country. To find your local service, simply enter your postcode at cas.org.uk/bureaux

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.