North-east business leaders have joined growing calls for the UK Government to make the full furlough scheme available whenever it is needed.
Ministers at Westminster have extended the programme, which pays 80% of employees’ wages if they are unable to work due to the pandemic, until December 2 – the end of England’s lockdown.
However, they have so far failed to provide guarantees the scheme will be available in its full format if other parts of the UK are forced into lockdown at a later date.
The uncertainty has prompted the Scottish Government to consider tightening restrictions to suppress Covid-19 while financial support is available.
And key players in the north-east business scene say the lack of clarity is having a knock-on effect on employers and workers.
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce said: “Unemployment in the city and the number of people receiving universal credit has more than doubled since March and we have seen a significant decrease in job vacancies.
“Looking at potential redundancies in the months to come, Aberdeen accounts for 35% of all Scottish notifications, an additional 6,400 jobs currently at risk here.
“With England moving into a blanket lockdown, we continue to call on Scottish Government to ensure the 5 level plan which came into effect just this week is given time to work.
“To make this possible, Westminster must give assurances that the extended salary support schemes are available when needed by devolved nations, not simply when they are in place to deal with prevailing circumstances south of the border.
“We really are at the most significant crossroads of our lifetime. Decisions taken now by policy makers will determine whether or not we recover quickly from the shock of Covid-19 or whether we end up swapping this for years of different physical and mental health, social and economic challenges that will dwarf those seen over the last few months.”
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “All financial support, including furlough, is needed to support our businesses and of course they need as much certainty as possible.
“It is our hope that as long as our infection rate remains low, that they will be allowed to trade safely under the current local authority tiered approach.”