South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has branded the UK Government’s newly introduced Job Support Scheme ‘woefully inadequate’ and warned that unless changes are made, yet more jobs will be lost across the south of Scotland.
The Job Support Scheme, which will replace the furlough scheme, will see workers get three quarters of their normal salaries for six months. However, to be eligible, employees must be able to work a minimum of 33 per cent of their hours- ruling out many businesses that have had to lockdown and where staff can’t work.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the new scheme would “support only viable jobs” as opposed to jobs that only exist because the government is continuing to subsidise the wages. At a press conference, Mr Sunak declined to comment on what defines a job as “viable”.
The current furlough scheme has been winding down over recent months and ends on 31 October. Initially it provided 80% of the salaries of furloughed workers up to £2,500 a month per employee.
Across the South of Scotland, thousands of workers remain on furlough, whether through the Job Retention Scheme or the Self Employment equivalent (SEISS) but when the current scheme ends it is unclear how many will be able to return to work.
Colin Smyth, who has been calling for a viable and targeted extension to the furlough scheme for months, said the UK Government’s fund will not go far enough.
The local MSP said: “The UK Government has been dragged kicking and screaming into announcing this new funding package, but it will not go far enough. What has been announced is woefully inadequate and unless changes are made, it will lead to yet more job losses.
“A lot of businesses here in the south of Scotland will not be able to claim anything through the scheme because in order to qualify, they must have staff working part time and for many sectors, that isn’t an option.
“For example, indoor play, some entertainment venues and outdoor education centres are unable to open at all, so where does that leave their staff who are currently furloughed?
“As we’ve seen in recent weeks, this virus is not going away any time soon and in order for our businesses to survive the winter, our governments must do more.”