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M&D’s theme park in my constituency of Uddingston and Bellshill has gone into administration, causing 165 workers to lose their jobs. It seems that firms that are in administration cannot furlough workers. Unfortunately, as a result of coronavirus, some companies have had to go into administration, laying off their workers in the process. This is not an easy time to find a new job, and many people in that position will face hardship. Can the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture advise what engagement the Scottish Government has had with the United Kingdom Government on enhancing the support that is available to people who are unemployed?
Clearly, the situation at M&D’s is regrettable. The Scottish Government has made contact with the company, and we have ensured that the partnership action for continuing employment initiative, which helps those who face unemployment due to redundancy, provides support. PACE has made sure that online support is available, given that social and physical distancing rules make it difficult to bring people together to give them advice. That advice and support is available to those made redundant by M&D’s.
Mr Lyle’s point is really about the UK Government. Clearly, one of the most important things is to try to keep people in work. That is why we welcome the UK Government’s job retention scheme. However, a lot of people are concerned that, once that scheme comes to an end, there could be a serious number of companies going into administration and redundancy situations. That has to be addressed. We have already raised the issue of the cliff edge that is the end of the job retention scheme in June.
It is important that we try to keep companies working and productive as we come through this period. That is why furloughing staff is preferable to making staff redundant, and it is good that many companies have done that. Our four-point plan—which involves responding to the crisis; resetting by planning how to come back safely; restarting; and then recovering—is important in that regard, because it provides a plan under which companies can get through this period with support for cash flow, which is essential just now, and emerge on the other side.
I do not underestimate the severity of the economic crisis that we face and which is hard felt in each and every company, whether it is M&D’s theme park or any other company, that is making people redundant at this time. Those redundancies will have a big impact on people and their families.
The universal credit payments that are provided by the UK Government have been increased. That should help to support those who are in need. We should bear in mind that the Scottish welfare fund has also had additional investment in order to help people who are in immediate crisis.
Things will be hard, but we need a collective effort, in terms of not only a community response but an economic response. We are doing our part but, clearly, the UK Government holds many of the levers, including the macroeconomic levers and the powers over the fiscal measures that can be used to support, underwrite and guarantee the loan system to try to keep companies afloat, where possible.