Divergence grows

Scots lockdown will last at least three more weeks

Nicola Sturgeon: not driven by politics

Nicola Sturgeon today set herself on a different course to Downing Street by rejecting any plan to ease up on the coronavirus restrictions.

She told her daily briefing that the lockdown will last at least a further three weeks and if Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, wants to go in a different direction that is his choice.

Ms Sturgeon said she did not know what the Prime Minister will announce on Sunday but insisted it was not the right time for her to change the guidelines, except to relax the once-a-day-exercise rule.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce a phased return to work and an easing of the stay-at-home policy. Ms Sturgeon held a brief discussion with him later and he told her, and other leaders of the devolved nations ,that he is committed to a UK-wide approach to tackling coronavirus “even if different parts of the UK begin to move at slightly different speeds”.

She said the next review of the lockdown in Scotland will be on 28 May, although the regulations allow for changes if the evidence suggests it is safe to do so.

She added that her decisions were not driven by politics, but to save lives “and I believe that is true of all leaders”.

She said:” “The latest assessment on the coronavirus leads me to conclude that the lockdown must be extended at this stage. Together we are making really significant progress with efforts to get this virus under control.

“Progress remains fragile and we are not yet confident of that the ‘R’ number (which indicates the rate of contagion) is comfortably below one.

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“Indeed, we think it could still be hovering around one and any significant easing up at this stage could be very risky indeed.”

Indicating that the peak may not yet have been reached, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland could be at a “later stage” of the curve.

“That tells me that extreme caution is required. We want to see data that confirms a clear downward trend.

“I must make judgements informed by the evidence that are right and safe for Scotland.

“I will not be pressured into lifting restrictions prematurely before I am as certain as I can be that we will not be risking a resurgence of infection rates.”

Reacting to the three-week extension, Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “As with so many of us, businesses in Scotland are desperate to know when they can resume operations and how to do so safely.

“And while they want to see economic recovery, it must not be at the cost of a second wave of the virus causing a further clampdown. Businesses in Scotland are playing their part keeping employees and customers safe. 

“We will continue to urge the Scottish and UK government to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to easing restrictions and both Governments must work hand in glove with business in a meaningful way to achieve this.”

Jobs scheme saves jobs

A new survey has shown that the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) in Scotland, helped avoid an estimated 374,000 redundancies north of the border. 

The survey, commissioned by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has found that Scottish employers have on average furloughed 58% of their employees and, in the absence of the JRS, would have made 34% of their workforce redundant. That equates to over 15% of all employees in Scotland.

However, the CIPD has warned that changes to the scheme will be required to avoid permanent redundancies in the future.

The same survey found that Scottish employers back the CIPD’s calls to extend the Job Retention Scheme and to make it more flexible to allow short-time working – 60% said they would find a flexible JRS useful.

The Chancellor has announced intentions to start scaling back the JRS from July but over half of employers (56%) believe an extension for a further three months, until September, would be the most helpful change in dealing with the impacts of Covid-19. 

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