Talks on virus
No one should be left behind, Blackford tells Raab
Ian Blackford: ‘serious gaps’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Government measures to ease the impact of the coronavirus are falling short and risk leaving some people without support, says SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
Following a meeting with First Secretary Dominic Raab and Opposition leaders on the UK government’s response, Mr Blackford called for further action to ensure no one is left behind.
The meeting was hosted in Downing Street by Mr Raab in the absence of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson who convened the gathering before being rushed to hospital where he continues to recover from the virus.
Mr Blackford welcomed support so far offered but expressed a need to address shortcomings in the package. He also called for a pause in the Brexit talks.
“Alongside the health response, I pressed for action to fix the serious gaps in financial support,” he said.
“The SNP has consistently called for a comprehensive package including a guaranteed minimum income, strengthened welfare protections, urgent access to cash for businesses, and increased NHS and Social Care funding.
“While UK government initiatives have been welcome, some haven’t gone far enough. The Job Retention scheme for example, which has a cut-off date of 28 February this year, fails to include seasonal workers such as those in the agricultural and hospitality industry, who will have failed to qualify for the scheme by a matter of days.
“The immediate priority must be securing adequate financial support to ensure people, public services and businesses can get through this crisis – but we must also have an eye on the future.
Dominic Raab: hosted talks
“This crisis has exposed the deep flaws in UK government policy and inequality in society, and the SNP will be making the case for enduring fundamental changes to ensure a strong recovery and a fairer society that supports everyone.
“There was consensus amongst the party leaders that we all have responsibility to emphasise the message that people must stay at home to protect lives.
“While we don’t want lockdown measures to be in place for a minute longer than they have to be, we don’t want to come out of them prematurely in a way that will do lasting damage, see the virus spiral out of control, our NHS overwhelmed and see more lives lost.
“Finally, I raised the need to pause the Brexit negotiations and extend the transition period so all resources are focused on tackling coronavirus. It is inconceivable to impose a hard Brexit at the end of this year when people, services and businesses are already struggling to cope.”
Boris ‘almost took one for the team’
Mr Johnson’s father Stanley today spoke of his relief at his son’s steady recovery and said it highlighted how anyone is vulnerable to the virus.
“To use that American expression, he almost took one for the team. We have got to make sure we play the game properly now.
“I think this is all pretty straight forward now, he must rest up, as I understand it.
“I don’t think you can say he’s out of the woods now. He has to take time.
“I don’t know the details but I cannot believe you can walk away from this and get straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reins without a period of readjustment. But that’s just me talking as a layman.”