Nicola Sturgeon to consider national lockdown approach for Scotland
Scotland may adopt a national lockdown approach to take advantage of the UK-wide furlough scheme that has been extended until early December, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister hit out at the UK Treasury today and said she has been left with a dilemma amid "encouraging signs" that Covid numbers were being brought under control in Scotland after strict measures which have been introduced across the Central Belt.
The lack of clarity from the UK Treasury about whether the furlough scheme could be applied in Scotland alone to take account of different prevalence of the virus north of the Border means the SNP leader may effectively be forced to adopt a ‘failsafe’ blanket approach.
In a direct message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, she said: "Give us the certainty that the situation that has now been guaranteed for England, that there is a lockdown for England and therefore there will now be extended furlough, that that same guarantee applies to all other parts of the UK if we need to take the same action at any time.”
Ms Sturgeon said this reflects the clashes with local mayors in the north of England in recent weeks, as well as the situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"It can't be right that the only time that additional financial support is made available is when the south of England needs to go into lockdown - that just isn't fair given the situation we're dealing with just now," the First Minister said.
Furlough was extended for a month by the Prime Minister on Saturday as he announced a new national lockdown for England as cases soared.
The number of new cases in Scotland fell slightly today to 951 and interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said there were “encouraging signs” that prevalence of the virus was starting to decline,
Scotland has only today entered the new tiered approach to restrictions. This would continue to apply, but a national approach to putting all areas into the highest tier four are among the possibilities under consideration as a 'firebreak' approach to getting numbers down before winter.
"The situation we've got right now is that we think we're seeing progress, but we can't be sure that that progress is going to go far and fast enough,” Ms Sturgeon said.
"So if there is a doubt in our minds and we have the certainty of greater financial support now, but don't have that certainty later on, would that tip the balance towards acting sooner rather than later?
"It would be better if we had the certainty of the financial support whenever we needed it and then we could continue on the course we're on right now, which is assessing the situation on a daily basis, trying to build more confidence in our direction of travel, trying to monitor all aspects of date.
"But I also think the people of Scotland would not take kindly to a situation that would not be of the Scottish Government's making where in a month from now we have to act more firmly and we don't at that stage have the financial support, whereas if we'd acted earlier we could have perhaps got the same benefit, but at a time when that support is available."
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