SNP and Scottish Tories unite on calls for furlough to be available to Scotland if lockdown required
The SNP and Scottish Conservatives have united in calls for the UK Government to guarantee full furlough payments will be available to Scottish businesses if the country goes into a lockdown.
Nicola Sturgeon last night welcomed confirmation from the UK Government that the full furlough scheme – which was due to end and be replaced by the Job Support Scheme on October 31 – would cover all four nations of the UK for another month.
However she said that it was important to clarify whether the same level of funding would be available in the future for Scotland if the country required a similar lockdown to the one facing England.
That call was echoed by deputy first minister John Swinney on Politics Scotland on Sunday morning.
He told the BBC that the devolved nations were told a “very firm no” when they asked for an extension to furlough in September.
Mr Swinney added: “It’s a matter of concern that the issues we’ve faced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were just disregarded by the UK Government, but it’s a welcome measure that it is now back on the table.
"What we need to know is the circumstances in which furlough payments are going to be available.
"Are they only going to be available when England has got a problem or will they be available at all times, in all parts of the UK when we all at different stages face difficulties and have to apply restrictions.”
Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s chief of staff, tweeted yesterday: “Good to see furlough back to 80 per cent - but can’t help thinking about the asks from Scotland, Wales, NI for furlough at 80 per cent - especially in late Sept when restrictions were first proposed, and the difference between the answer then and the answer now.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross echoed calls from the SNP for the funding to be guaranteed, tweeting it "must be there” and that it must not be a request but “it simply has to be done”.
In a keynote speech the Moray MP will give at Policy Exchange on Monday, Mr Ross will say that Scotland must be treated in the same way as England in future decisions about furlough.
He will say: “Now that the scheme has been extended to cover the impact of a second lockdown in England, how could a Unionist government not restart the scheme if a second lockdown is required in Scotland?
“We all hope that by following the guidance and doing the right thing, a second Scottish lockdown will not be necessary.
“But if it is, the UK Government must treat Scotland the same way as England. That guarantee has to be made immediately.”
Mr Ross is also expected to say that Covid-19 has not shown devolution is broken, but that is has “exposed its weakest points” and “been found wanting”.
He will say: “I think that even the most committed defender of the current system would admit that they have been found wanting.
“The Scottish Government and other Devolved Administrations, responsible for managing the virus in their nations, have been forced to look for detail on announcements from publicly available press releases.
“The SNP benefits from inter-governmental disputes, the UK Government does not.”
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