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by Louise Wilson
02 November 2020
Nicola Sturgeon calls for clarity on furlough scheme extension


Nicola Sturgeon calls for clarity on furlough scheme extension

The First Minister has urged the Treasury to clarify whether support through the furlough scheme will remain time-limited and tied to the lockdown in England.

Nicola Sturgeon warned only making the financial support available for the month meant the Scottish Government may have to take a decision on a new lockdown before the impact of the latest restrictions and new tier system was clear.

She said the decision on a possible second lockdown would ideally not have to be taken until the scheduled review point next Tuesday 10 November.

At a COBRA meeting earlier today, representatives of the three devolved administrations called for support to be available whenever it was needed.

At the daily lunchtime briefing, Sturgeon said: “We can’t put off vital decisions while we have a debate with the Treasury, because the virus doesn’t stop spreading while we do that. That’s why I hope we get absolute clarity on that point from the Treasury today, because it matters to our decision making here in Scotland.

“If we know furlough is available without limit of time, we might still ultimately have to act. But we could give ourselves a bit more time to assess the situation and so not take decisions too quickly that would involve more restrictions on people before we’ve had the opportunity to assess current situation.

“However, if the furlough extension remains time limited, we will face having to take that decision more quickly because we’ll be faced with the risk of not acting now, meaning we might have to act later, but at a time when the financial support is not available.”

The furlough scheme in England has been extended until 2 December, to coincide with a four-week lockdown from Thursday.

However, it is understood the UK Government has refused to extend it beyond that date should the other nations of the UK be required to go into lockdown later.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross earlier called for the UK Government to ensure Scotland was treated the same way and for the scheme to be restarted if a second lockdown is required north of the border.

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