Nicola Sturgeon urges Boris Johnson to 'stick to his word' on furlough

Nicola Sturgeon has repeated her calls for the furlough scheme to be available beyond the English lockdown period and said Boris Johnson needed to “stick to his word” amid continued confusion.

Nicola Sturgeon has called for the furlough scheme to be extended if Scotland is placed under another lockdown. Picture: Shutterstock
Nicola Sturgeon has called for the furlough scheme to be extended if Scotland is placed under another lockdown. Picture: Shutterstock

The First Minister said she would be “very, very, very disappointed” if additional funding from the UK Treasury was not available to Scotland should she announce a coronavirus lockdown that extends beyond December 2 – the new date the furlough scheme is expected to end.

She said while there was still “confusion" over whether Scotland would receive furlough monies, despite it not being under full national lockdown, she hoped to soon get “clarity”.

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Referring to Boris Johnson’s announcement that furlough at 80 per cent of wages would be extended for the planned four-week lockdown south of the Border, Ms Sturgeon said: "The same level of financial support must also be available after November.”

Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish Government daily Covid briefing

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Confusion was sown after the Prime Minister gave a commitment to extending furlough on Monday, but the Treasury then refused to confirm it and Tory ministers, including Robert Jenrick and Steve Barclay, appeared to backtrack on the commitment.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The current confusion and the lack of clarity is - and I think this is an obvious point - not helpful for our decision-making, but it is not helpful for businesses and employees who, of course, are anxious about jobs and wages at this time."

Speaking at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “If the UK Government comes out and says there is no extended furlough for Scotland beyond December 2, I will be very, very, very disappointed, and that is me using as diplomatic a word as I possibly can."

Such a move, she said, would "run counter to the interpretation that the Prime Minister allowed to be put on his remarks" in the House of Commons.

Ms Sturgeon admitted she has been “frustrated” at not receiving a detailed response, but added: “My expectation is that the Treasury are beavering away on that right now and we are going to see the detail soon.”

She said she did not want to “have to distort rational public health decisions to try to fit into a time-limited financial offer”, but the availability of furlough funding could potentially be a factor in “tipping the balance” if decisions have to be made on a second Scottish lockdown.

“I have made the judgement right now, given I am expecting the Prime Minister's commitment to be honoured, that we continue to take those rational decisions in our own time scale, driven by the public health data. I am going to choose to believe that the Prime Minister is going to stick to that commitment and going to ensure that the Treasury provide the detail.”

Speaking in the Commons today, Mr Johnson said the Chancellor would make a statement tomorrow about support during autumn after SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford challenged him on the issue at Prime Minister's Questions.

He asked if Mr Johnson would confirm if “Scotland will receive full 80 per cent furlough and self-employed payments, on current eligibility, whenever it is requested by the Scottish Government in the months ahead?"

Mr Johnson appeared to confirm this by responding "I in no way budge from that commitment" and said the Chancellor would outline plans tomorrow.

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