The Scottish Government would replicate a £500 payment to everyone confirmed with Covid-19 if Westminster introduces the move south of the border, the First Minister has confirmed.
Nicola Sturgeon said she would welcome the introduction of the payment, as the additional cash it would generate for Scotland could allow for a similar scheme to be set up.
Reports had suggested the UK Government was considering the move, but Downing Street said on Friday there are currently “no plans” to introduce it.
The prospect of a payment for everyone testing positive for the disease comes amid concern the rate of compliance among those required to self-isolate is too low.
Currently, only those on a low income are eligible for a £500 support payment if they are required to quarantine – with Sturgeon saying the Scottish Government would struggle to resource any expansion to more people without additional funding.
The First Minister said: “In a financial sense we are doing everything we can, though we continue to look at how we can do more, how we can stretch our resources.
“But we are pretty much doing what we can within the resources available to us.”
If additional money is made available to Scotland because such a scheme is set up by Westminster, she said “we would seek to match that”.
Sturgeon, speaking at her regular coronavirus briefing, added: “We will see whether that transpires or not, but any extra resources for self-isolation we would use to support self-isolation.”
Her comments came as a leading lawyer said “greater support” for those needing to self-isolate is more important than stricter enforcement of lockdown measures.
John Scott QC, who has been charged with scrutinising Police Scotland’s use of new powers to deal with coronavirus, said: “Enforcement alone can’t address something like the situation we are in.
“Short of perhaps a country that isn’t a democracy, it requires public buy-in, it requires public confidence, the public have shown that they are perhaps better equipped to understand things than some of the politicians.”
Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority, he added: “Higher levels of support remain more important than higher levels of fine.”
He highlighted issues raised by Professor Stephen Reicher of St Andrews University, who is a member of the advisory body Sage.
Prof Reicher pointed to places like New York, where comprehensive support for people to be tested and to self-isolate has been put in place.
Scott said: “Just as this meeting has been going on, I’ve seen that Professor Reicher has tweeted about New York and the support that people get for isolation and that includes, for example, walking your dog, so there’s about 80% compliance there.
“Whereas here, we’re struggling with people who don’t want to get tested because they’re frightened of the financial implications of a positive test and they don’t want to put themselves in that position.
“Greater support is more important than greater enforcement, and more politicians should be honest about that and the media should be more honest about that as well.”
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