I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this timely debate, which is of critical importance to my constituents. Out of the four constituencies that represent South Lanarkshire in this House, my constituency has the highest number of people receiving support for their incomes during the pandemic. The most recent figures, from July, show that 15,800 constituents were placed on the furlough scheme, with 3,200 constituents on the self-employed income support scheme. To put that into context, the total number of people on those schemes is just shy of a quarter of the total electorate in my constituency.
There can be no doubt from those figures that the economic effects of covid-19 are going to be felt for some time to come. It is with that understanding that we now face an incredibly stark choice about what to do next. It is my fundamental view that the Chancellor is moving far too quickly to wind down those schemes. There are sectors of the economy that are clearly not yet ready to reopen or expect a longer time to recovery, because coronavirus mitigations will be with us for many months to come.
One example of an industry that faces a deeply uncertain future without furlough is the events industry, which employs many of my constituents and supports our thriving cultural scene. My constituent Anne Porter, who owns a small production company that has been running in Burnside since 1989, told me that she has relied on furlough to keep the company going. However, with many major live events cancelled or postponed until next year and the furlough scheme winding down, many businesses like Anne’s are now facing closure across my constituency.
My constituents whose livelihoods rely on productions and events have told me that continuing support is essential for those sectors to recover. Many performers see the end of furlough as an enormous setback to what will often be the first tentative steps into their career. Ending furlough too early will lead many to conclude that the so-called “broad economic shoulders” of the UK are being put to work creating cliff edges, just at the moment when many people will be feeling economically vulnerable. For some it will be the first time in their lives that they have experienced this kind of insecurity. They have paid their taxes, followed the rules and done all the right things, and the UK Government are now repaying them with worry and uncertainty as the scheme winds down and the threat of redundancy looms large.
In conclusion, I do not want to have to beg another Government to do the right thing and extend the furlough and self-employed income support schemes. I do not want to hear more stories from ExcludedUK of people who are falling through every gap in the support schemes and been left with nothing, not even the hope of one-off support that might help them get back on their feet. I want the Government to start listening and to keep this lifeline support going. If they will not do that, it is time that we have the choice to support people and businesses through the powers of an independent Scotland.