Calls for ‘urgent clarity’ over furlough scheme in Scotland

Confusion over whether job support funding will be available when Scotland needs it.

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The First Minister has called for “urgent clarity” on plans to extend the furlough scheme to devolved governments following comments made by the UK housing secretary.

Robert Jenrick told Sky News on Tuesday morning that chancellor Rishi Sunak would review whether to extend the scheme – which pays wages while staff can’t work – on December 2, when a full lockdown in England is currently scheduled to end.

However, on Monday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested furlough funding would be available to Scotland when it’s needed.

At Monday’s coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon warned that a second lockdown may be necessary if furlough was only available during England’s four-week lockdown, due to come into effect on Thursday. 

Speaking in the Commons later, in response to a question from Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, the Prime Minister said: “The furlough is a UK-wide scheme.

“If other parts of the UK decide to go into measures which require the furlough scheme, then of course it’s available to them, that has to be right and that applies not just now but of course in the future as well.”

However, Sturgeon said the comments made by Jenrick have left her seeking urgent clarity on the issue.

She tweeted: “We need clarity on this urgently today. I’m sorry to say that the Scottish Government has no more detail now than we did before PM statement yesterday. Woolly words don’t pay people’s wages.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she welcomed the commitment made to offer furlough in Scotland beyond December 2, but said she was yet to receive confirmation from the UK treasury about the policy.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I welcome that commitment although I do so with, I suppose, a necessary degree of caution, we haven’t yet seen any detail of what that commitment means when translated into hard practice. 

“In particular we’ve not yet had confirmation from the treasury that continuation of furlough in Scotland beyond December 2 would be at the 80% level.

“We have always known there would be some form of furlough scheme continuing after December 2, that has never been the point at issue, the point is at what level. 

“We await confirmation it will be on the same basis, eligibility, and the 80% level that will apply throughout November.”