Scotland still in dark over furlough, says finance secretary

Kate Forbes is calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide urgent clarity.

Scotland still in dark over furlough, says finance secretary Getty Images

Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes is calling for the Chancellor to provide urgent clarity on the extension of the furlough scheme.

Speaking ahead of Rishi Sunak’s statement, Forbes is asking for the UK Government to clarify questions around the availability of the furlough and Self-Employed Income Support (SEISS) scheme for Scotland.

Forbes said: “Despite repeated calls this week for full details of the Prime Minister’s commitment to a Scotland-only furlough and SEISS scheme, we are still no further forward and remain in the dark about what these schemes will look like.

“I have repeatedly asked for calls with both the Chancellor and chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay but to no avail – and I hope that today’s statement will at last give us the clarity we require.

“We cannot have a situation where businesses and workers are fully supported when England enters a lockdown, but comparable support isn’t made available, if all or part of Scotland requires it.”

On Saturday, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second lockdown for England, it was confirmed the job retention scheme would be extended for another month, with the UK Government continuing to pick up the tab for 80% of workers’ wages.

Since then the Scottish Government has been pressing UK ministers for more clarity on the issue.

Forbes added: “It is vital that the same level of furlough support is available to Scottish businesses after November at the full 80% level currently available to businesses, that there is no diminution of the eligibility criteria and that the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme remains available at the enhanced rate of 80% of income.

“The crucial point is that we need this support available at any time, if we deem it is needed in Scotland.

“We also require urgent clarification on how much additional funding the Scottish Government is likely to receive in consequential payments.

“Without this information we have to wait for the UK Government to act before we can move to support Scottish businesses.

“These decisions must be made on the basis of public health and we need the financial flexibility to be able to make the decisions we need for Scotland.

“The Prime Minister made a commitment, but now he must deliver on it, in full, without backtracking.

“I hope that the Chancellor will now finally confirm the details we require.”

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