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Ian Blackford renewed calls for Scotland to be granted new financial powers in order to extend the job retention scheme past the October end date. The SNP Westminster leader insisted the “premature” closure of the furlough scheme would cost millions their jobs as he demanded Boris Johnson agree to extend it. After the Prime Minister rejected the request, Mr Blackford asked for Scotland to be given the power to do so directly but his plea was apparently ignored.
The Prime Minister said: “I think I’ve answered the Honourable Gentleman’s question already.
“I believe it is essential that we not only invest in our people to protect them from the effects of this epidemic as we have done.
“Huge, huge expenditures, quite rightly, but it is also essential we get the economy moving, including in Scotland.
“I hope he supports that objective as well.”
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The Prime Minister also took a thinly-veiled dig at the SNP politician, pointing out the economic burden of keeping the country afloat during the crisis had been taken over by the UK Treasury.
Mr Johnson continued: “I think most people looking at what has happened in the UK over the past three to four months have been overwhelmingly impressed by the way we, as a Government, have put our arm around people.
” Over £164 billion invested in jobs, in incomes, it’s been a massive effort. I think that you can’t go on forever with a furlough scheme that keeps workers, keeps employees in suspended animation in the way that it does. We need to get our economy moving again.
“That’s what I think the people of this country want to see in a sustainable and cautious way. And I would just remind him the reason the job retention scheme has worked is because of the power and the efficiency of the UK Treasury. It’s the UK Government that has funded the furlough scheme.”
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Mr Blackford warned the suppression of the scheme too early could put additional pressure on employers and risk adding to high unemployment rates in the coming months.
The SNP Westminster leader said: “It’s about the future and it’s about making sure that people can be protected.
“Just this week, we’ve seen Spain look to extend its furlough scheme into 2021.
“Research has shown that prematurely ending the job retention scheme risks higher unemployment and weaker productivity, with a potential loss of £50 billion to GDP.”
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Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted keeping the furlough scheme open forever would only give employees “false hope” they will be able to return to their pre-coronavirus jobs when there is no certainty it would be possible.
The scheme was originally introduced in March to allow businesses to continue paying wages through the lockdown.
The Government assumed over 80 percent of the cost of wages but announced a gradual shut down of the scheme, which is now set to close in October.
Announcing a new job retention bonus to succeed the scheme, Chancellor Sunak said: “This crisis has highlighted the special bond which holds this country together.
“Millions of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been protected but the UK Government’s interventions – and they will be supported by today’s plans for jobs.
“No nationalist could ignore the undeniable truth – this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”
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