No return to austerity when lockdown ends, says Nicola Sturgeon

There must not be a return to austerity when the UK eventually exits lockdown and begins the process of rebuilding the economy, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Nicola Sturgeon was speaking at her daily media briefing in Edinburgh

The First Minister welcomed comments by Boris Johnson on Thursday, in which the Prime Minister said austerity was “not a part of our approach” when asked how the UK Government will deal with the hundreds of billions of pounds of debt the pandemic will have added.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) released projections last month predicting that net borrowing could hit £271bn this year.

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Asked today if she felt Mr Johnson’s assessment was realistic, Ms Sturgeon said there was an opportunity when lockdown ended to reassess how the economy worked.

“It’s important we take these decisions carefully because if we are premature, and the virus runs away from us again, that will do even longer-lasting damage to the economy,” she said at her daily media briefing in Edinburgh.

“This is not a trade off between health and the economy.

“When we last had a recession, occasioned by the financial crash, the decisions made by the UK Government - they were the wrong decisions then, and they would be the wrong decisions now - was to go for an austerity approach.

“That, in my view, is not an approach that should be taken.

“Clearly, the UK Government still hold the key economic levers. We will be pressing them hard to take a very different approach and not to return to austerity economics.

“In that respect, I welcomed what Boris Johnson said in that regard yesterday.

“More generally, while it is difficult in the midst of a crisis to start talking about positive things from this, we have an opportunity to look afresh at how the economy and our society works and what we really value.

“That’s something I think there is huge public appetite for.”

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