Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 12:48 pm, 22nd September 2020

I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. We have reached a critical moment. The virus has not gone away, it is not going away, and it remains as deadly as ever. I welcome the fact that following calls this weekend from our First Minister, a four-nation Cobra meeting has taken place this morning. We have all witnessed the worrying rise in virus cases over the past number of weeks, and we all know the projections and consequences our society will face if it continues to grow at the same rate.

We must also be clear about one thing: if we take the right actions now, there is nothing inevitable about the exponential spread of this virus. If we act decisively, move sharply and take the right, tough decisions now, we can get the virus back under control, minimise the time we all spend under new restrictions and, most importantly, we can save lives.

Today, Governments across the four nations are rightly asking citizens to make more sacrifices to protect our collective health. In return for these sacrifices, it is only right that citizens are provided with financial support amid the health and economic uncertainty. We are now just a few short weeks away from the end of the furlough scheme. Analysis from the Scottish Government has already shown that extending the scheme by eight months could save about 61,000 jobs in Scotland. France, Germany and Ireland have already extended their job retention schemes into next year, but the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have rigidly refused to extend furlough.

We all know, however, that U-turns and mixed messaging have come to define this Government. On 10 July, the Prime Minister said:

“Go back to work if you can.”

On 14 August, the Chancellor said it was “crucial” that we “do our bit”, such as

“going back to our places of work,” and on 27 August, Government sources said:

“Go back to work or risk losing your job”.

The Prime Minister has changed his advice this morning on working from home. It is now time to change his mind on furlough as well. So today I have one question, and it is a question that 61,000 employees in Scotland are asking. Prime Minister, they deserve certainty and they deserve an answer. Will this Government now save those jobs and extend the furlough scheme beyond October? Prime Minister, do not throw workers on the scrap heap, through no fault of their own.