Scotland’s first minister has added to calls mounting on Westminster for a fresh tranche of financial support for businesses.
Nicola Sturgeon said a lack of new support from the UK government meant “there is no money to compensate” businesses in the wake of further Covid restrictions.
This was “not acceptable,” Sturgeon said, echoing calls from other devolved nations urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to review support for ailing firms.
“Our public health response is curtailed by lack of finance,” she said.
Sturgeon outlined “a return to the kind of protections in place at the start of the pandemic” to avoid crowding, including physical distancing and table service in pubs.
She also asked businesses to “step up” Covid preventive measures, including those to avoid crowding in shops and pubs.
The calls come a fortnight after Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, first minister for Wales, wrote to the Chancellor urging “a Four Nations approach” to tackle the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
In the letter, the first ministers said: “We also wish to confirm that devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event more interventionist measures are required to respond to the public health situation. In our view, it would be better to consider this now, in advance of a potential escalation in the seriousness of the situation, to support effective planning.”
They added: “We do not want to be in a position again where our public health interventions are negatively impacted by a lack of financial support, but can be switched on as required for England.
According to a report in the Times, the Treasury is mulling a return of the furlough scheme.
A Treasury source told the newspaper new measures “could mean a return to the furlough scheme but depending on what, if any, further restrictions are necessary there might be other ways of providing that support.”
A Treasury spokesperson said present Covid measures meant the nation could swerve “unduly damaging economic and social restrictions.”
“Our £400bn covid support package will continue to help businesses into spring next year and we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, as we have done since the start of the pandemic,” they added.