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Scotland could be bounced into four-week lockdown

Written by on 2 November 2020

Scotland could be bounced into a four-week national lockdown by the Treasury’s decision to end the extended 80% furlough scheme at the beginning of December.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has floated the possibility of “a full lockdown” and described funding from Westminster as a “crucial point”.

As Scotland moves into a new five tier system of restrictions the Scottish government could be left with the bill for supporting businesses forced to close if and when the highest tier is brought in at a later date.

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The first minister said in a statement that her government will “carefully consider the impact” of the lockdown in England.

“A crucial point for us is whether support on the scale announced for English businesses is available for Scottish businesses now or if we needed to impose further restrictions later – or if it is only available if Scotland has a full lockdown at the same time as a lockdown in England,” she said.

On Twitter she later said funding from the Treasury was “a key question”.

When asked by Sky News about funding for Scotland’s tier system, the Treasury Department declined to be specific, pointing instead to its earlier statement that said: “CJRS [The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme] is being extended until December.”

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Some public health experts in Scotland fear their carefully-planned regional restrictions are now in danger.

Professor Linda Bauld, the Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, thinks the lack of guaranteed funding has the potential to force the issue.

“The question for the Scottish government, and indeed for Northern Ireland and Wales, is if they needed to implement those kinds of measures again in the future, would furlough be available to them? And it may not,” she said.

“There is a question as to whether the Scottish government might be forced to do something more dramatic during November to take advantage of that fiscal package.”

Nicola Sturgeon
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Nicola Sturgeon said her government is considering the impact of England’s lockdown

Much of Scotland’s central belt, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, is in tier three of the new restrictions, meaning licensed premises can open during the day, after three weeks of enforced closure.

For Stuart Smith, who signed a lease on the Fin and Grape restaurant in Edinburgh as restrictions were easing in July, the new uncertainty is worrying.

He has created new menus for his planned opening next week, but is now holding off ordering any food.

“If we’re shut down then that is obviously a massive issue,” he said.

“It’s a huge, huge worry. We may get by, we may struggle though, but of course it would be pretty disastrous.”