Bruce Crawford MSP and Alyn Smith MP have called on greater flexibility from the UK Treasury, in order to support businesses and employees in the Stirling area impacted by Scottish public health measures.
For months the UK Treasury response has continued to let down Stirling’s communities – that the furlough scheme paying 80% of an employee’s wages was to conclude at the end of October. This is despite an uptick of COVID-19 infections across the four nations of the UK, and additional restrictions announced by each respective government.
After a new general lockdown for England was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson late on Saturday evening, the UK Treasury confirmed an extension of the furlough scheme – yet it remains unclear if Scotland and the other devolved governments can only make use of the scheme whilst England is in lockdown.
Bruce Crawford MSP said:
‘Whilst an extension to the furlough scheme is welcome, for many businesses and employees in Stirling it will be far too late. Many redundancies will already have been processed, as employers acted on the understanding the scheme would close at the end of October.
‘As the Scottish Government does not currently have access to the necessary borrowing powers, we instead rely on the UK Treasury to borrow money on our behalf to fund programmes such as furlough. The Scottish Government requested flexibility in the scheme to support Scottish health measures, and whilst the furlough extension for England is positive news it raises questions of whether Scotland and the other devolved nations will have similar flexibility.
‘Businesses in Stirling want greater certainty on support measures – it’s the responsibility of the UK Treasury to ensure devolved governments can access furlough support in a flexible manner, that can provide tailored support for localised approaches, suited to local circumstances.’
Alyn Smith MP said:
‘Devolved governments have a duty to tackle the public health crisis, and protect the health of their citizens and economies. Businesses and employees deserve as much certainty as is possible during a global pandemic – and whilst the recent extension of the furlough scheme is welcome, it raises further questions for the UK Treasury to answer.
‘Will the furlough scheme be open only for the duration of England’s lockdown? Or will devolved governments gain the flexibility they’ve been asking for, and be able to deploy furlough measures in a targeted manner suitable for their own circumstances?
‘An extension, even at the 11th hour, is a welcome development, although now the UK government must ensure there is fairness across the devolved nations, and Treasury policy is not seen to be favouring the circumstances of England.’
November 5th Update:
Whilst the announcement of an extension to the furlough scheme to March 2021 is welcome, whether the scheme remains flexible and can be deployed by devolved governments to support public health measures remains unclear.