SNP urged to introduce new lockdown payment schemes by Tories and Lib Dems

The calls came as the Scottish Government said it had repeatedly asked for more powers around social security.
Tougher lockdown restrictions were reimposed in Aberdeen earlier this monthTougher lockdown restrictions were reimposed in Aberdeen earlier this month
Tougher lockdown restrictions were reimposed in Aberdeen earlier this month

The Scottish Government has been urged to introduce two new payments to help areas of Scotland cope with local lockdowns.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross called for the SNP to copy a trial underway in England where those self-isolating and on low income receive up to £182, while leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie wrote to finance minister Kate Forbes calling for an increase to business grants for those affected by local lockdowns.

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Mr Ross said: “We must restore and rebuild our economy together, maximising the talents and skills of every worker and giving everyone the same opportunity to get ahead.

“People across the country want to see both of Scotland’s governments working together to protect them from the damage of this virus. This is a perfect opportunity for the UK and Scottish governments to show what can be achieved when they are on the same side.”

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Scottish Government has repeatedly asked for more powers in regards to social security and again called for an extension to the job retention scheme.

She said: “The UK Government has made clear there are no Barnett consequentials from the pilot project, so the UK Government should either transfer the powers and the funding, or deliver for this scheme at higher rates for the whole of the UK.”

Mr Rennie called on the government to “urgently establish” a larger local lockdown business grant scheme to help support companies in areas hit by local lockdowns.

He said: “More local lockdowns seem inevitable. This is looming large in the minds of many business owners, and they need reassurance and certainty.

“The government must urgently establish a comprehensive Local Lockdown Business Grant Scheme to support firms across Scotland that are affected by any future lockdowns.

"We asked the Scottish Government for weeks before Aberdeen happened what preparations they were making for local lockdowns, as well as for guidance and suitable measures. The decision not to put systems in place in advance contributed to businesses in Aberdeen waiting two weeks for the announcement of support.

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"Even then £1,000 didn't begin to reflect the scale of the losses the local lockdown caused many, especially with bars and restaurants also missing out on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

“These grants should kick in on day one of any local lockdown and be substantial enough to tide businesses through. We can’t afford to have the time lag in Aberdeen repeated elsewhere. Many businesses simply cannot afford to close their doors for days without financial support."

In response to Mr Rennie’s letter, a Scottish Government spokesman said it had called on the UK Government to extend offers such as Eat Out to Help Out in areas suffering from local lockdowns.

He said: “Throughout this unprecedented economic crisis we have listened to businesses and business organisations and acted quickly to offer support.

“Public health will continue to be our priority and, as the First Minister said, when she announced the additional funding last week, such decisions are not taken lightly and we recognise the impact measures have had businesses in Aberdeen, particularly those impacted by the restrictions and required to close.

“We do not want to impose local restrictions if we can avoid it. However, in some circumstances they may be required in order to suppress the virus and keep localised outbreaks or clusters under control in a targeted and less restrictive way.

“In such circumstances, we will continue to work closely with a range of business organisations, local authorities and others on a framework for managing business impacts associated with any localised outbreaks - aligned, of course, with public health protocols.

“Our priorities are to ensure we understand all the impacts of the restrictions and how we might support affected businesses and those most in need as quickly as possible.”

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