Our economy faces its most significant challenge

The COVID virus is still out there, but we are making progress, and it’s been encouragingly ‘normal’ to pass children on their way to school and to see things a bit busier. However, just as some normality is returning to our streets; our economy faces its most significant hurdles.

The Office of National Statistics recently reported the UK’s economy is lagging behind all of the G7 nations, and this is before the toxic shock of Brexit. This matter to us all because it means more job losses and, left unchecked, will scar our communities for many years to come.

Without question, this pandemic has changed our way of life, and we’ve adjusted to meet our new realities, but it would be reckless of the UK Government to step aside and wait to see who is left standing. Initial financial support apart, it seems like that is the UK Government’s intention.

Along with my SNP colleagues, I am doing everything I can to urge them to take a different path. The recovery will take time, and as we have seen, affects some sectors more harshly than others. Our business community, economy and family budgets need meaningful and long term Government intervention. It’s not inevitable to sacrifice the future of those worst hit by this crisis – it is an ideological choice.

The ‘furlough’ Job retention scheme was a welcome bright light. Yet, the Chancellor is still recklessly ploughing ahead with his premature plans to shut down the scheme in October – in contrast, Germany has just announced an extension to its version. News that will be a welcome relief to millions of workers and businesses in Germany, who like those here, have struggled to navigate through the coronavirus crisis.

Germany’s Finance minister, Olaf Scholz said: “Businesses and employees need a clear signal from the government: we’ve got your back for the long haul in this crisis so that no one is being let go without need.”

The tone of this message and the support offered is what is needed here. The Treasury must rethink and extend furlough measures into 2021 and, crucially fix the gaps in support, if they refuse to do so, then transfer the necessary powers to Holyrood so we can take actions needed to save jobs and protect livelihoods.

Only then can we all work to prevent many thousands more job losses and plan a fairer recovery for all.

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