Nicola Sturgeon has written to Boris Johnson urging him to re-establish the furlough scheme, amidst a rise in the Omicron variant.
The First Minister also told the Prime Minister that restrictions on the operation of higher risk settings “may now be unavoidable”.
Sturgeon has already urged Scots to minimise contact with other households in the run-up to and aftermath of Christmas this year.
And she has told businesses, where possible, to enable staff to once again work from home.
In her letter to Johnson, the SNP leader noted that “neither of us wishes to be in this position”.
“I am writing to you this morning as a matter of extreme urgency. I am profoundly concerned by the scale and immediacy of the threat posed by Omicron,” she wrote.
“We agree that accelerating the pace of boosters is critical and we are all focused on doing that.
“However, Omicron is running faster than even our accelerated roll out of boosters, and we know that immune protection from vaccination is not immediate, or complete.
“As as result – and while neither of us wishes to be in this position – my view is that strong guidance to the public to restrict contacts at this time and in the run-up to Christmas is essential.
“While we have already issued such advice in Scotland, I believe there is a need to strengthen it further.
“I also believe that restrictions on the operation of higher risk settings – while of course undesirable – may now be unavoidable.”
The First Minister said that only the UK Government is able to make funding available at the scale required.
She wrote: “Frankly, if we do not get Omicron under control, we are sacrificing the economic recovery we all want to see.
“If the Treasury does not provide financial compensation and protection, this result becomes all but inevitable.
“UK funding arrangements mean that the devolved administrations cannot establish at our own hand the financial packages on the scale needed – a point raised repeatedly by all three administrations in recent COBRA meetings.
“This means that while each of us has a devolved duty to protect public health, we lack the financial means to support necessary action. Only the UK Government can make funding available at the scale required.
“I am therefore appealing directly to you – and urgently – to re-establish UK-wide schemes for furlough, or, alternatively, to establish a mechanism whereby the devolved administrations (subject of course to appropriate financial controls) can trigger such schemes, and to ensure we have access to the financial support needed to deploy these schemes.”
Sturgeon told Johnson that she would make herself available to discuss the issue on Thursday.
She added: “Once again, the need to protect the NHS and save lives and livelihoods must be uppermost in our minds and drive our actions. A lack of necessary and sufficient financial support must not be a barrier to us doing so.
“I would be grateful for an opportunity to discuss this directly with you. Given the urgency of the emergency we now face, I will make myself available any time this afternoon for a phone call.”
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