Covid-19 (Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 13th August 2020.

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Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

8. To ask the Scottish Government what funding the Cabinet Secretary for Finance will allocate to support people who are looking for work or at risk of redundancy as a result of Covid-19. (S5O-04467)

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

As I said in answer to the earlier question, we will continue to make the case that the furlough scheme should not end. However, rather than wait for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to change his mind, we have already confirmed investment totalling £133 million in this financial year to support people towards and into work as we gradually restart the economy. That funding will help people have access to or progress into work, as well as support those who are at risk of redundancy. That is in addition to the £214 million that has already been allocated to Skills Development Scotland this year to work with partners and employers to ensure that every individual has the skills and the confidence to get a job. We are in no doubt about the challenges that face people up and down the country and that is why we have moved quickly to put that funding in place.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for her answer and for the substantial sums of money to which she refers. It is particularly important that young people are supported.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that creating and protecting jobs in general will only be possible in true partnership with the business community, trade unions, enterprise agencies and the third sector?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked collaboratively with businesses, trade unions, enterprise agencies and charities. The recovery must focus on jobs. We have engaged extensively with businesses in recent months and have discussed our ideas about the economic recovery with many organisations and individuals.

That approach underlines our willingness to listen to and collaborate with businesses, and with those who create jobs. We know that it is their innovation and determination that will be the engine room of our economic recovery. The finance that I have announced is about working through those organisations to create and to retain jobs.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The tourism industry accounts for a significant part of the local and Scottish economies. Many of my constituents who work in the Loch Lomond area are worried that they will not see a proper recovery until March next year. In the absence of any continuation of the United Kingdom furlough scheme, will the cabinet secretary do something on a sector-specific basis to protect jobs in the tourism industry?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

The short answer is yes. Like Jackie Baillie, I have a constituency in which many businesses rely on tourism and are now facing real challenges.

I will quickly make three points. The tourism action group has met regularly to look at sector-related support. Secondly, we recently announced additional support to help hotels to recover and to protect jobs there. Thirdly, I have already shared information about the youth guarantee and the substantial sums of money that we have put in place to ensure that young people in particular have the option to train or to get a job. We will work with employers, including those in the tourism industry, to access that support so that they can keep people employed even when trading conditions are challenging.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

If—as seems to be the case—the UK Government does not understand the Scottish economy, particularly sectors such as tourism, would it not be better for the UK Government to give more powers to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to deal with that?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

I agree with John Mason. That is the bottom line.

We will continue, with businesses and other partners, to make the case for the extension of the furlough scheme. I am extremely concerned about the cliff edge in October. We know that businesses and workers will continue to need support well beyond October, whether that is in tourism or in other industries. That is particularly important in local lockdown areas such as those in Aberdeen, Manchester and Leicester.

We will work with the UK Government on a four-nations solution, but if it does not ensure that the relevant support remains in place to protect jobs, we must have the funding or the fiscal flexibilities to do something similar. Without borrowing powers, we are overly reliant on UK Government consequentials.