Rishi Sunak 'should not be able to decide what is a viable job'

25 September 2020, 23:58

Rishi Sunak has been criticised by members of the Scottish Government
Rishi Sunak has been criticised by members of the Scottish Government. Picture: PA Images

Chancellor Rishi Sunak should not be able to decide what is a "viable job" and communication has significantly "worsened" in recent weeks, Scotland's Finance Secretary has said.

In a revealing interview about the increasingly bitter relationship between Westminster and devolved administrations, Kate Forbes expressed concern at the new economic measures and how major interventions are being discovered by Scottish Government officials over Twitter.

The Job Support Scheme announced by Mr Sunak on Thursday is intended to replace furlough when that form of support ends next month, but only jobs that are deemed viable will be eligible for the new payment.

Speaking to reporters, the Scottish Finance Secretary and SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament said: "I don't believe it's the Chancellor's job to decide what is and isn't a viable job, because this scheme requires people to be in some form of work."

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She said localised lockdowns are not taken into account in the scheme, and neither are parts of the economy such as nightclubs which have not yet been allowed to open at all.

She added: "Where we've seen localised lockdowns during furlough, businesses have been able to re-furlough their staff and get access to critical support - this scheme won't allow for that.

"The other thing it won't allow for is sectors that haven't been allowed to reopen, either because they have to remain shut or because business hasn't increased.

"These are viable jobs, they're good jobs - but because of the nature of lockdown right now, people have not been allowed to reopen.

"The Chancellor's scheme is, wrongly in my view, trying to determine what is and isn't a viable job in a way that does not appreciate the reality of the situation we are living in."

Under the new scheme, employers will continue to pay staff wages for the hours they work, but if they are not required to work their full hours, the Government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.

It means employees who are working shorter hours than normal will still be paid two-thirds of the hours for the time they cannot work.

Employees must be working at least a third (33%) of their usual hours and will receive at least 77% of their normal pay.

Decrying the level of communication between the administrations, Ms Forbes said she only learned on Twitter that the UK Budget had been cancelled - which she said could result in a delay to the Scottish budget.

She added that she was only made aware of the Rishi Sunak's 'winter economy plan' when it was announced in the House of Commons of Thursday.

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Ms Forbes added she has had "no indication" of Barnett consequentials coming to the Scottish Government as a result of the Chancellor's plan, and is still waiting for information on extra funding from previous announcements such as the self-isolation payments set out in August.

A spokesman for the Treasury said: "The UK-wide package announced yesterday was broadly welcomed by business groups across Scotland and provides welcome support for businesses and workers.

"As the Chancellor has said, it would be fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough.

"Our focus will continue to be on creating new opportunities for people in Scotland and supporting them into viable and secure jobs."