September 25, 2020 Blog

Scotland’s workers need real support – and Sunak’s scheme is woefully inadequate

Scotland’s workers need real support – and Sunak’s scheme is woefully inadequate

RISHI Sunak has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into keeping afloat the life raft of financial support for furloughed employees. It will come as a relief to Scottish workers, that the Tories have not completely pulled the plug on the support Labour demanded from the Chancellor when the pandemic began six months ago.  

Yet, just over 48 hours after Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson, declared that we will be living with restrictions for up to 6 more months,it is clear that the Chancellor ‘s last gasp announcement is woefully inadequate for the scale of the challenge that Scotland’s Covid-ravaged economy is facing. 

Transmission of the virus is rising sharply once again, and Scotland has the highest unemployment rate of the UK’s four nations.  

That’s why it’s bitterly disappointing that the Chancellor has not listened to Scottish Labour’s call for a Jobs Retention Scheme specifically targeted at Scotland. 

In the Chancellor’s statement to MPs there was nothing of substance that takes into account the specific requirements of the Scottish economy. 

Many of the 350,000 working women and menwho were facing a furlough cliff-edge, will be concerned that replacing furlough with a wages top-up scheme, will see their incomes squeezed.     

Strikingly, this scaling back of financial support for workers facing job losses, shows that the Chancellor is prepared to countenance high levels of unemployment.

This comes against a backdrop of widespread fear among workers in Scotland that they are facing long-term unemployment on a scale not seen in their lifetimes. 

In contrast, Scottish Labour has been advocating a Jobs Guarantee Scheme since the economic impact of Covid-19 became clear. 

A policy of promoting full employment must be placed at the heart of any recovery plan. 

Critically, financial support for firms, under the new scheme announced by the Chancellor, must also be conditional. 

The government must ensure that it is not simply a case of urging firms not to pay dividends this year. 

Instead, it should consider options like taking equity stakes in companies receiving government support to ensure that employees are not later sacked and rehired on less pay and poorer conditions. Both UK and Scottish governments should make that a condition of all support for businesses that receive public funds.

Only decisive action like that will reassure workers threatened with job losses, that their jobs, and incomes, will be safeguarded this Christmas and beyond.

This article was first published in the Daily Record, Friday September 25 2020