The SNP has said Tory plans to cut the furlough scheme must be “immediately reversed” in light of the worsening pandemic.
With the coronavirus infection rate worsening, Ian Blackford MP (pictured) said the Tory cuts were “completely unthinkable” – warning thousands of jobs would be lost unnecessarily if Boris Johnson continued to ignore SNP calls for a U-turn.
The SNP Westminster Leader, who has led calls for a furlough extension and the devolution of financial powers to protect jobs for months, said “anyone could have foreseen” a second wave of coronavirus and said it was a failure of governance for the Tories to cut the scheme against the advice of the devolved governments, opposition parties, businesses, trade unions and economists.
The SNP and Scottish Government have repeatedly called on the Tory government to extend the furlough scheme and devolve financial powers so the Scottish Parliament can protect jobs – but Boris Johnson has refused.
The latest Office For National Statistics (ONS) labour force survey revealed UK unemployment has risen to 4.1% and the number of workers in employment has fallen by almost 700,000 since March.
Separately, analysis from the Scottish Government shows extending the furlough scheme by eight months could save around 61,000 jobs in Scotland.
Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said:
“Boris Johnson must urgently U-turn on his disastrous plan to axe the furlough scheme in the middle of a global pandemic.
“With the infection rate worsening and lockdown measures tightening, it would be completely unthinkable for the Tories to scrap support for jobs next month.
“The SNP has been warning for months that Tory cuts to the scheme were far too premature – and would result in thousands of people losing their jobs unnecessarily, and good businesses going under, at the worst possible time.
“These planned cuts must be immediately reversed.
“Anyone could have foreseen the worsening situation and the need to reintroduce stricter lockdown measures.
“The Scottish Government has consistently warned of the likelihood of this eventuality.
“It is a total failure of governance that the Tories have stubbornly refused to listen to the devolved governments, businesses, trade unions and economists.
“If the Tories plough ahead with these cuts, unemployment could soar to 1980s levels and they would never be forgiven for the lasting social damage they would inflict on communities across Scotland and the UK.
“The immediate priority now is for the UK government to listen to and work with the Scottish Government, and other devolved administrations, to ensure effective measures to control the spread of the virus – and extend the furlough scheme to save jobs.
“But the Tory government must also answer for its failure to listen to the Scottish Government’s calls for the devolution of financial powers, which has left Scotland unable to take the scale of action needed to protect jobs and the economy.
“Ireland, France, Germany and other normal independent countries have already extended their furlough schemes and delivered investment to save jobs.
“In stark contrast, Westminster has deliberately chosen to leave Scotland powerless.
“Scotland should not have to wait for Westminster to act.
“It is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland’s interests is to become an independent country.”