The SNP has demanded urgent clarity that the Treasury will make full furlough payments, at 80 per cent, available to Scotland whenever it is requested by the Scottish Government in future – after a Tory Cabinet Minister attempted to roll-back on the Prime Minister’s commitment.
In response to a direct question from Ian Blackford MP yesterday, Boris Johnson gave the commitment at the despatch box in the House of Commons. But the Treasury has failed to confirm the details to journalists overnight – and Tory Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick would not make the same commitment in an interview with Sky News Kay Burley this morning, instead saying “that’s a decision that the Chancellor will have to make in the future.”
The Prime Minister has faced criticism for extending the Job Retention Scheme only when England faced a national lockdown – having repeatedly rejected calls for an extension from the SNP, and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, over the past six months.
Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said:
“Boris Johnson must urgently confirm the commitment he made at the despatch box yesterday – that the Treasury will make full 80 per cent furlough payments available to Scotland, whenever it is requested by the Scottish Government, over the coming months.
“If the Prime Minister is already back-tracking it will prove, yet again, that you cannot trust a word he says – and that Scotland will never be treated as an equal partner in the UK.
“The evasion and confusion from the Tory government is disgraceful. We are in the middle of a pandemic – people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. It is crucial that the Scottish Government can take timely action to protect people’s lives, in the knowledge that full financial support will be available for workers and businesses whenever it is requested.
“That means full 80% furlough payments, with same eligibility as currently, and the same flexibility to apply to the self-employed scheme. Without these assurances the Tory government will be hindering Scotland’s ability to respond to this crisis, and risk putting people’s lives and livelihoods under threat.
“This shambles has also become a serious question of judgement for Douglas Ross, who will be left without a shred of credibility if these commitments unravel having been so quick to claim credit despite his own eleventh-hour conversion.
“Whatever happens now, it is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland’s interests is to become an independent country.”
Paisley’s MSP, George Adam weighed in on the uncertainty and said:
“Frankly, this attitude from ‘our’ Government is absolutely disgraceful and the Tories should be utterly ashamed of themselves. This is not a game – people’s lives and livelihoods are on the line. Scotland needs clarity, and we need it now.
“It’s bad enough that Boris and his cronies are still helplessly trying to defend their shameless decision to deprive children of free school meals over the holidays – they now won’t guarantee Scotland access to the furlough scheme in the future if we need it which will only make things even harder for families already experiencing financial hardship.
“This yo-yo act only emphasises how much disrespect Westminster has for our country and our people – I wish I could say I’m surprised by this turn of events but after years of nothing more than disregard and contempt, this seems par for the course.
“We deserve much better than this so I can only urge those still on the fence about Scottish Independence to take a long and hard look at how we’ve been treated during this pandemic – and honestly, how we’ve been treated for years.”