Covid: Boris Johnson may just have written a blank cheque for Nicola Sturgeon to pay furlough costs – John McLellan

With Covid-19 hospital admissions now running at the same levels as the start of April, the chances of restrictions easing in Edinburgh, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested only last week, are receding.

Boris Johnson made what looked like an open-ended commitment to maintain furlough payments in Scotland for however long a full lockdown here lasts, says John McLellan (Picture: Handout/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson made what looked like an open-ended commitment to maintain furlough payments in Scotland for however long a full lockdown here lasts, says John McLellan (Picture: Handout/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

Hospital admissions in the NHS Lothian area jumped to 155 on Tuesday, the same level as April 4, and as the peak of 241 hospitalisations came just over a fortnight later on April 22 it’s hard to imagine a previously cautious approach suddenly becoming gung-ho.

There is little hope of an early escape from a very long and hard winter, but at least the UK government extension of the furlough scheme has bought another month to preserve household incomes.

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Scottish Government 'cannot rule out' Scotland lockdown amid calls for furlough ...

But on Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to go further, responding to Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross by making what looked like an open-ended commitment to maintain furlough payments in Scotland for however long a full lockdown here lasts.

That effectively writes a blank cheque for the First Minister to close the Scottish economy for as long as she deems necessary without having to worry about how it is funded, and the UK Treasury can’t unpick the pledge without it being interpreted by Nationalists as London impoverishing vulnerable Scottish families. Recent poll ratings indicate plenty of people will be willing to believe that.

More devolution was supposed to ensure the Scottish government took more financial responsibility for its decisions, but although it looks like being cancelled for everyone else, the First Minister must think her Christmases have all come at once.

John McLellan is a Scottish Conservative councillor for the Craigentinny and Duddingston ward

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