A contrast is emerging between people who have already returned to work and those who are still waiting patiently at home in the hope that they can return to work. Many furloughed workers are not receiving the 20 per cent of their salary from their employers. Some employers are paying that, but others are not. People are also concerned that, if there is no date for them to return to work, there will probably be more redundancies.
I really appreciate the level of detail that the First Minister has given today. That is very welcome. Does she agree that we need all sectors to have as much specific information as possible about when people can return to work, so that planning can be done on getting workers back safely?
We all agree that, unfortunately, economic turmoil is ahead. Will the First Minister ensure that the recovery plan is informed by the widest level of engagement, involving all age groups, unions, workplaces and ordinary people’s experiences? I am pretty sure that she will agree with that, because that is the best way to go forward with our recovery plan.
Let me make three very quick points. First, I agree with Pauline McNeill’s final point, because that is important. Earlier this week, there was a debate in Parliament, which I was not able to attend in person, on the economic recovery group’s report. Engagement not only in Parliament but further afield, involving stakeholders, trade unions, the third sector and the wider business community, is essential. That is how we intend to proceed.
Secondly, I agree with the need for as much certainty as possible. Every step of the way, that is what I will try to deliver. However, I will not give false certainty, because that does more damage than good. There will always be a degree of uncertainty, given the nature of the virus, but when I say that a particular sector can open on X date, I want to be as sure as possible that that is deliverable, based on the information that we have at the time. I also want to be sure that doing so is as safe as possible, because that will allow me to ensure that I get fully behind the retail or tourism sector, for example, and encourage people to get back to using those parts of our economy. It is important that we get that in sync and that it happens in the right order.
Thirdly, the furlough scheme, which has been very welcome and helpful, has prevented a wave of redundancies so far, for which we should all be grateful. However, it is really important that the scheme is not prematurely withdrawn and that the United Kingdom Government is willing to continue it for as long as is necessary, whether in a general sense or by targeting particular sectors that we know will be hit for longer. We are seeking to have that discussion with the UK Government, and I hope that members across the chamber will call on it to follow the example of countries such as France and make it clear that such support will not be withdrawn before the economy is ready for it.