UK furlough scheme extended until the end of March

The UK furlough scheme has been extended until the end of March as Chancellor Rishi Sunak guaranteed access for Scotland.

Mr Sunak today announced the scheme would be extended, as well as guaranteeing cash for the devolved nations if they implemented their own restrictions.

Speaking in the Commons, the Chancellor explained this would then be reviewed in January.

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He said: “The furlough scheme will not be extended for one month, it will be extended ‘til the end of March.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak giving a statement to MPs in the House of Commons on economic measures. Picture: PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak giving a statement to MPs in the House of Commons on economic measures. Picture: PA Wire

“We will review the policy in January to decide if economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute.

"For self-employed people I can confirm the next income support grant, which covers the period November to January, will now increase to 80 per cent of average profits, up to £7,500.

“I also want to reassure the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The furlough scheme was designed and delivered by the Government of the United Kingdom on behalf of all the people of the United Kingdom, wherever they live.

Rishi Sunak today announced an extension to the furlough scheme

“It is a demonstration of the union, and an undeniable truth of this crisis we have only been able to provide this level of support because we are a United Kingdom”.

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Mr Sunak also announced the upfront support for the devolved nations was increasing from £14 billion to £16bn.

The move comes after repeated demands from Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP to extend the furlough scheme.

Speaking in September, the Chancellor had criticised Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds over the issue.

He had said: "I don't think it's the right thing to do, to endlessly extend furlough.

"That is not the kind of certainty that British businesses or British workers need."

Despite this, today Mr Sunak insisted it was not a U-turn, but a reaction to the developing situation.

He said: “To anyone in the real world, that's just a thing you have to do when the circumstances arise.

“The support we are providing will protect millions of jobs.

“Today's announcement will give people and businesses comfort over what will be a difficult winter.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross claimed Mr Sunak had gone “above and beyond”.

He said: “Scottish Conservative pressure has delivered. All week, we’ve made the case that Scottish jobs had to be protected at all costs.

“We’ve worked constructively with the UK Government and pushed them for answers where necessary.

“He has blown the SNP’s grievances out of the water with an extra billion pounds for Scotland, and shown again that the UK Government will do whatever it takes to support jobs throughout this pandemic.

“This massive financial backing to protect Scottish jobs is only possible as part of the United Kingdom.”

The Lib Dems claimed the measures did not go far enough and should be extended until June 2021.

Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine said: "Although this change is welcome, the delay will have cost businesses and individuals an untold amount as they were left in uncertainty at the hands of this Government."

SNP shadow chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said: "The Chancellor has been forced into this shambolic last-minute U-turn after months of Tory cuts, delays and uncertainty.

"For many it is far too late. Thousands have already lost their jobs, many good businesses have gone under, and millions have been excluded.”

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