Ian Blackford MP

Tory Delay on Financial Support Leaves UK Lurching on Cliff Edge

The SNP has said the UK faces another “cliff edge” unless the Tory government urgently announces an extension to the furlough scheme and other key financial support measures.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ian Blackford (pictured) warned the Tory government was “repeating the same damaging mistakes” it made in the autumn, which saw businesses and workers left with crippling uncertainty.

By the time the UK government finally U-turned on its plans to end the furlough scheme many businesses had already laid people off, causing record redundancies.

The SNP Westminster Leader said businesses and families “cannot afford” to wait until the Budget in March, and called on Boris Johnson to “stop the dithering and delays” and give people financial certainty now by urgently announcing:

An immediate extension to the full furlough scheme – for as long as the pandemic continues, and the devolved nations require it, with payments maintained at 80 per cent of wages

Making the £20-a-week uplift for Universal Credit permanent – and extending it to legacy benefits, instead of cutting it for six million people in April

A financial package for the 3million excluded – who have been left behind by the Tory government throughout the pandemic and need urgent support

A 12-month extension to 100% Retail, Hospitality and Leisure relief – to help hard hit sectors through the pandemic

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour market survey, published in January, revealed a large increase in the UK unemployment rate at 5% (+0.6% on the quarter), UK redundancies at a record high of 14.2 per thousand (+6 per thousand on the quarter), and the UK employment rate falling to 75.2% – with over 800,000 fewer people in employment in December than February 2020.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said:

“The Tory government is repeating the same damaging mistakes it made in the autumn.

“By delaying crucial decisions over the financial support that millions of people and businesses depend upon, the Tories risk creating another disastrous cliff edge and mass redundancies.

“It is completely unacceptable that businesses and workers have, yet again, been left in crippling uncertainty with the threat that this vital lifeline could soon be cut off.

“Boris Johnson must stop running down the clock, end the dithering and delays, and deliver a renewed financial package.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer for a decision on funding that ends in April.

“Businesses need certainty they will have the funds to pay people’s wages and stay afloat.

“Families need to know they will have the income they need to pay their rent and bills.

“Devolved governments need a guarantee of funding, so they can act swiftly and decisively to control the virus.

“By withholding investment and blocking the devolution of financial powers, the Tory government has left Scotland to respond to this crisis with one hand tied behind our back.

“Scotland shouldn’t have to wait for Westminster to act.

“The only way to properly protect Scotland’s interests, and secure a strong recovery, is to become an independent country with the full powers needed to build a fairer future.”