Nicola Sturgeon 'increasingly worried' about financial support and public health gap

The First Minister has said she remains uncomfortable with the fact Scotland is unable to move to stricter restrictions to help battle Covid-19 due to a lack of financial support from the UK Government.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 3:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 3:33 pm
Nicola Sturgeon has called for more financial support to help businesses affected by Covid-19
Nicola Sturgeon has called for more financial support to help businesses affected by Covid-19

Nicola Sturgeon last week implied she may have gone further with restrictions around hospitality venues had the furlough scheme been extended.

Ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of his Job Support Scheme, an intervention she described as “not sufficient” to avoid redundancies, the First Minister had said there was “considerable force” in the opinion that further restrictions were necessary.

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Speaking at her coronavirus briefing today, Ms Sturgeon said she still holds that view.

She said: "The point I was making last week, and I have written to the Prime Minister about this, is that increasingly Scotland, and the same will be true for Wales and Northern Ireland though they can speak for themselves, and the same is true for regions in England, that to do more in terms of restrictions to try to bring Covid under control, it inevitably takes you into measures which have significant economic impact.

“Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and regions in England lack the lack the economic and financial levers to mitigate that impact.

"That is the constraint on our action that increasingly worries me and I am seeking to have discussions with the UK Government about how we collectively address that.”

Ms Sturgeon repeated her statement that the Job Support Scheme announced by Mr Sunak was welcomed “as far as it goes”.

She said: “There are plenty of voices in different sections of the economy that would echo my view that it is not enough even to avoid redundancies based on where we are right now and not sufficient in my view to support the possible requirements for additional measures that have a greater economic impact.”

One of those interventions, strictly enforced border controls on those arriving into Scotland, was listed as one of the most crucial interventions a government can make by one of the First Minster’s own scientific advisers, Professor Devi Sridhar.

In response, Ms Sturgeon repeated that 100 per cent of those arriving from quarantined countries are contacted initially and “a proportion” of those are followed up further with numbers increasing.

She said the contribution to cases caused by imported cases is proportionately lower than two or three weeks ago and there were now “other issues” for the Scottish Government to focus on.

Ms Sturgeon said: "No country is exempt from this, but the point I often try to make because I think some people look at New Zealand and say they can live normally, but the price for their living normally is literally you can’t get in or out of New Zealand right now and that is likely to be the case for quite some time.

"There is a reality here that no country avoids the trade-offs. Different countries are choosing different trade-offs.

"Scotland has many similarities with New Zealand in all sorts of ways, but geographically and in terms of our integration into Europe, for example, we are different to New Zealand and having that kind of very very strict border control is a different proposition here than it is in New Zealand so we have to look at different ways.”

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