Nicola Sturgeon calls for commitment in writing on furlough scheme
Nicola Sturgeon has called on Boris Johnson to commit in writing to making the furlough scheme available in Scotland if lockdown is required in the future.
Sturgeon welcomed comments made by Johnson on Monday where he appeared to commit to making the scheme available beyond November if necessary but she said that the “confusion and lack of clarity” since was not helpful to the Scottish Government.
Asked about it during PMQs on Wednesday, Johnson said that he had “in no way budged” from his commitment but refused to agree to providing more details ahead of a statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday.
The Scottish Government has been calling for clarity on the future of the furlough scheme in Scotland since lockdown restrictions for England were announced on Saturday.
Johnson said while making the announcement that furlough, which was due to come to an end on 31 October, would be extended for the duration of England’s nationwide restrictions.
Scottish politicians including Scottish Conservatives have since been asking whether Scotland would have the same option for job support if a lockdown were needed at some point in the future.
In the House of Commons on Monday Johnson agreed that access to the scheme would be granted to Scotland if further lockdown restrictions were required.
But since then UK Government ministers had appeared to soften on that commitment, with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick saying that any decision on the matter would be for the Chancellor to make.
Sturgeon at that time accused the UK Government of “woolly words” but a lack of detail.
Speaking during the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Sturgeon welcomed the “apparent commitment” Johnson gave but asked for detailed written commitments “as a matter of urgency”.
She said: “The current confusion and 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 pay this time.
“So I hope, although I'm mindful I said the same thing at this point yesterday, I hope we will get that clarity over the course of today.”
Sturgeon’s comments came as Johnson was facing questions from MPs during PMQs.
SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford asked Johnson if Scotland would receive the full 80 per cent furlough and self-employed payments whenever it is requested by the Scottish Government.
Johnson said that he has “in no way [budged]” from his commitments on Monday but refused to commit to giving the Scottish Government more detail before a statement from the Chancellor on Thursday.
He said: “I gave a commitment then, I in no way budge from that commitment. Furlough is a UK wide scheme. It's helped save I think about 10 million jobs in this country, including about a million in Scotland.”
He added: “I think perhaps the most efficient thing I can tell the right honourable gentleman is that my right honourable friend the Chancellor will be making a general statement as you can imagine about all the support, all the provisions that we're making for this latest phase to tackle the autumn surge of coronavirus tomorrow.”