Downing Street has resisted calls to extend the furlough scheme beyond the end of England’s lockdown, potentially leaving thousands of businesses and employees out of pocket in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced over the weekend that the full furlough scheme, paying 80% of workers’ wages, would be put back in place during England’s month-long lockdown, which begins on Thursday.
But the Treasury has dismissed calls to grant the devolved nations furlough cash if they go into lockdown at a later date.
Scotland’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, was told over the weekend that if the country does go into a lockdown that runs beyond December 2, it will need to do so without the support currently made available south of the border.
Despite pressure from Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross this morning, who said the UK Government’s position was wrong, Number 10 are holding firm.
‘This has to be cleared up’
Asked this afternoon if cash would be granted to Scotland in the event of a later lockdown, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “The furlough scheme is UK wide and all changes to the scheme apply UK wide, as they have done throughout the crisis.”
“This has to be cleared up,” Mr Ross said at a Policy Exchange event this morning.
He added: “Now that the scheme has been extended to cover the impact of a second lockdown in England, how could a unionist government not restart the scheme if a second lockdown is required in Scotland?
“It cannot be that furlough is not affordable when Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or parts of Northern England need to go into lockdown – but when all of England goes into lockdown, the taps are turned on.”
MPs are due to debate England’s Covid-19 lockdown and the furlough scheme later today.