Dumfries and Galloway risks an unemployment disaster unless the UK Government introduces a targeted extension to the furlough scheme, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The MSP has also slammed local Tory MPs Alister Jack and David Mundell for refusing to support businesses in the region by pushing for a targeted extension for sectors where staff were unlikely to return to work in the short term.

The comments come after the latest figures revealed that 17,900 workers in Dumfries and Galloway remain on furlough – 30% of the region’s 60,400 workers.

The scheme provided businesses with a grant of up to 80% of staff members wages capped at £2,500 for every staff member on furlough.

However, this was cut to 70% this month with businesses having to fund the difference and is set to be ended completely on 31 October when all support will be withdrawn raising fears that thousands of local workers will be made redundant.

Unemployment figures have already been consistently rising in recent months, and as lockdown measures ease, while many people will be able to return to work, some industries are still unable to fully operate fully in a post-Covid environment.

Colin Smyth believes a targeted extension of the furlough scheme for those who work in the arts and entertainment industries, for example, would save thousands of local jobs.

Colin Smyth said: “Unemployment in our region has already doubled compared to this time last year and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with that number set to rise as the furlough scheme winds down even further.

“That is why I’m calling on the UK Government to urgently introduce a targeted extension to the scheme without delay. As lockdown eases even further, many people will be able to return to work as before but there are thousands, particularly in the arts and entertainment industry, who are facing continued restrictions and huge uncertainty about whether their jobs will even exist.

“Our region is facing an unemployment tsunami, and the creative sector is one industry which is set to suffer badly from the jobs crisis. Unless the UK Government works fast, we will inevitably see closures and yet more job losses.

“The fact that the region’s two local Tory MPs have remained silent on this issue is a disgrace. It’s time they started working to actually support their constituents, many of whom are seriously struggling.

“Our region is standing on the edge of an unemployment disaster and without more Government help to support jobs, the number of families in our region who will find themselves out of work is going to rise significantly.”

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