UK Open Minded on Extending Furlough

UK Open Minded on Extending Furlough says Michael Gove.
The UK government is “open-minded” on SNP calls to extend furlough, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants the job support scheme extended “for as long as it is needed”.

The call comes ahead of a virtual meeting between Boris Johnson and the three devolved administrations on how to emerge from the Covid pandemic. The summit was postponed after the Scottish and Welsh first ministers criticised the “very rough” agenda.

Ms Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford said the discussion needed to be “meaningful” and had asked Mr Johnson to provide more detail of the meeting’s schedule.

Mr Johnson called the summit in the wake of the election results in Great Britain earlier this month, which saw Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) returned to government in Scotland and Mr Drakeford’s Labour triumph in Wales.

Downing Street said it was an opportunity to share information and ideas on the way ahead.

First Minister Ms Sturgeon said that the four-nation meeting could not be “a PR exercise” and that getting “certainty over funding… is the bare minimum or our expectations”.

Ahead of the summit, the SNP urged the UK government to consider extending furlough “beyond September if this is required”.

The party also said those who have started jobs since 2 March 2021 should be able to be furloughed if needed.

The furlough scheme – officially called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – was launched in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, to minimise unemployment.

It now covers up to 80% of an employee’s salary for the hours they cannot work, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The scheme is currently due to expire at the end of September.

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Gove said he was “open-minded” on the SNP’s proposal.

He added that furlough scheme was a “huge success” that was only possible “thanks to the broad shoulders of the UK Treasury”.

He also said Scotland would benefit from more spending by the UK government adding “it is absolutely vital that we build back better.”

In an earlier statement, Mr Gove said the four nations’ “joint success” on fighting Covid had “shown the world what we can achieve as a United Kingdom.

“We must take the same approach to the difficult challenge of rebuilding our economy and public services from the damaging impact of Covid-19.”

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