‘It’s NOT fair’ Nicola Sturgeon erupts at Michael Gove after fiery row behind closed doors

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Nicola Sturgeon insisted that devolved administrations need the furlough scheme but it is expected to be lifted when England’s lockdown is over. The Scottish First Minister said she had just taken part in a Cobra meeting between the four UK nations, led by Michael Gove, and argued for the furlough scheme to be available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland whenever it is required during the pandemic. The SNP leader explained without the scheme it means she is forced to put tougher coronavirus restrictions in place. Ms Sturgeon said at the daily briefing: “At this stage, the indication is that the more generous furlough scheme is only going to be available for the next month during the period of England’s lockdown.

“We continue to press the case that it should be available to devolved administrations whenever it is needed.

“I think most reasonable people think this would be the fair position.

“I, with, colleagues in the Welsh and Northern Ireland government have pressed that point very firmly at the Cobra meeting which has just concluded.”

She added: “I hope we get absolute clarity on that point from the Treasury today because it matters to our decision-making in Scotland.

“If we know furlough is available without a limit of time we might still ultimately have to act but we could give ourselves a bit more time to assess the situation and not take decisions too quickly that would involve more restrictions on people.

“However, if the furlough extension is time-limited we face having to take that decision more quickly because we will be faced with the risk of not acting now meaning we have to act later.”

She later added: “The only time that additional financial support is available is when the south of England needs to go into a lockdown. That just is not fair.”

Scotland’s Finance Secretary has suggested the UK Treasury is continuing to deny requests for full furlough to be made available whenever it is needed.

Kate Forbes also criticised the UK Government’s late announcement of the scheme being extended until December for the duration of a national lockdown in England.

Employees will continue to receive 80 percent of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500, in a move described by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as “a vital safety net”.

Despite the news, Ms Sturgeon called for clarity over whether the scheme would be flexible should stricter measures be introduced in the devolved administrations.

But it emerged this would not be the case after discussions took place on Sunday – just hours before Scotland moves to a new five-tier level of restrictions.

Ms Forbes said: “Despite discussions today, UK Treasury continue to deny our request that full furlough at 80 percent be made available for businesses and employees in Scotland at any point we need it, suggesting that it is only available for the duration of a lockdown in England.”

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An HM Treasury spokesman said: “The UK-wide furlough scheme has been available in Scotland throughout the recent local restrictions.

“During this time, furloughed employees will have received 80 percent of their wages, as they will do in November.

“Our extension of the furlough scheme until December is just one part of our £200billion support package which has protected jobs and helped millions of people across the UK continue to provide for their families.

“As we have throughout this crisis, we will continue to listen and respond to people’s concerns, and work closely with the devolved administration in Scotland.”

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