UK 'continues to deny' furlough guarantee in case of Scottish lockdown

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said it “probably was a mistake” for Boris Johnson to rule out a national lockdown earlier in the year as pressure continues to grow on the UK Government to guarantee furlough is available to the devolved nations if they also go into lockdown.

Last night, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said the UK Government was “continuing to deny” calls from the Scottish Government to guarantee furlough would be available to Scotland beyond the month of lockdown due to come into force in England on Thursday.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross backed the calls, saying it should not have to be a “request” and was an “absolute must for Scotland”.

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Scottish Government 'cannot rule out' Scotland lockdown amid calls for furlough ...
Scotland's finance minister has said the UK Government "continues to deny" calls for furlough to be guaranteed in Scotland should the country face another lockdown

Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Ross said the furlough scheme should be available for any part of the UK if it were to go into lockdown.

He said: “The furlough scheme should be extended to Scotland if we go into those lockdown conditions and I think it’s the right thing for the UK Government to do, and that’s why I’m stressing very strongly, very clearly and very publicly, to say this is an absolute must for Scotland.

"I am working flat out to ensure that does happen because it is absolutely vital for businesses and for jobs in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland that that protection that has been there since the start of the pandemic is available if we have to go into tougher lockdown restrictions.”

Challenged about the Prime Minister’s previous opposition to another nationwide lockdown, Mr Ross replied: “I’ve said that I don’t think anything should have been ruled out and it probably was a mistake of the Prime Minister to rule out a national lockdown, because if this virus has shown us anything it’s that you can’t rule anything out given the way it develops and how cases can go up and come back down again.”

Speaking on Sunday night, Ms Forbes repeated Scottish Government calls for clarity on furlough and said the Treasury had suggested the scheme would only be available while England is in lockdown.

She said: “Despite discussions today, UK Treasury continue to deny our request that full furlough at 80 per cent be made available for businesses and employees in Scotland at any point we need it, suggesting that it is only available for the duration of a lockdown in England.

“While clarity that it will be available to businesses whether open or closed is welcome, the lateness of the announcement means many businesses have already taken devastating decisions.

“We also received no clarity on whether we will receive additional Barnett consequentials as a result of increased UK support for English local government and whether the unlimited payments for business support in England funded by Treasury borrowing will be made available on a similar demand-led basis to enable the Scottish Government to match that long-term commitment.

“We have requested urgent discussions with Treasury ministers and will continue to press for a fair deal for Scotland and to ensure that Scotland has the fiscal support it needs from the UK Government to help businesses, people and communities cope with the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.”

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