The UK government is âopen-mindedâ on the SNPâs calls to extend furlough, according to the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, as Nicola Sturgeon said a return to pre-pandemic austerity would be âdisastrousâ.
Sturgeon, Scotlandâs first minister, called for Westminster to extend the job support scheme âfor as long as it is neededâ and to ensure that pre-existing inequalities are not exacerbated by the crisis, before a four nations recovery summit on Thursday afternoon.
The meeting was postponed at short notice last week after Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart, Mark Drakeford, complained that the agenda was far too woolly. Sturgeon said she had since been given assurances that the rescheduled meeting would be âa meaningful discussion, and it must beâ.
The summit was proposed by Boris Johnson immediately after the SNP won a landslide victory in the Holyrood elections and Welsh Labour won 50% of seats in the Welsh Senedd, in what was seen to suggest a more conciliatory approach from Downing Street in response to a surge in support for independence in both nations.UK cases
Speaking to the BBCâs Good Morning Scotland, Gove said he was open-minded on the furlough proposal, and said the scheme had been a âhuge successâ that had been possible âthanks to the broad shoulders of the UK Treasuryâ.
Sturgeon has voiced concerns about a possible return to austerity from the Conservatives at Westminster, but Gove said: âWeâll be spending more. Weâll be spending more on the NHS, we will be spending more on education, we will be spending more on criminal justice, because in all of these areas it is absolutely vital that we build back better.
âExtra funding for everyone will continue, and it is important we all learn from each other about how that money should be spent.â
Before the summit, Sturgeon said: âWe have done everything we can with the limited powers we have to tackle inequality and mitigate the impact the pandemic has had on peopleâs livelihoods, but we cannot allow that to be eroded as we enter the next phase of living with the virus.
âA return to the pre-pandemic austerity would be disastrous for jobs, for public services and for people and families across Scotland. As the UK government hold the key financial levers to help us recover from this, I will be calling on it to commit to maintain public spending during the period of recovery, and to extend the furlough scheme for as long as it is needed to protect businesses and people who have been required to stop working to protect others, and I will be emphasising that it is managed sensitively in a way that supports longer-term recovery.â