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Jack urges Sturgeon to open economy more quickly

Alister Jack

Alister Jack: wants earlier opening

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to move more quickly in reopening the economy.

Mr Jack said the First Minister had indicated that the four-phase plan could be brought forward when the coronavirus is tamed.

He said there was evidence that this was now the case and an earlier opening of businesses was now possible.

Responding to the 20.4% fall in GDP for April, he said : “We knew the numbers were going to be bad, and I suspect they will be no better in May. As soon as it is safe to do so, and I believe we are getting to that position… we have got to move as quickly as we can to open up the economy again and I would say to Nicola Sturgeon she must have an open mind on that.

“Non-essential retail is opening in England next week.. it’s critical to save people’s livelihoods and we start to open up the economy as soon as possible.”

Mr Jack said the First Minister had made it clear that the stages would “move more quickly” if the virus was receding “and I think we are seeing that.”

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He said that outside of care homes the R number – the figure used to measure the rate of contagion – was relatively low and the “opportunity” was there to respond by easing the restrictions.

“Therefore I do think we could more quickly to open up the economy,” he said.

Mr Jack said he favoured restarting the tourism industry on 1 July rather than the planned date of 15 July.

Construction sites will move to the next phase of reopening from next Monday, but there is still no date for retail. Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that she would make a statement on retail next Thursday when more guidance is also expected on the tourism industry.

Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary, has said that Scotland was likely to recover more slowly than the rest of the UK.

Mr Jack favoured moving the social distancing guidance from two metres to one metre “when the time is right”.

Commenting on EU talks, he said that the UK and EU will “come to an agreement” on Brexit before the deadline. The EU had shown a willingness to compromise late in the day on the backstop and he said it was likely to do so on the transition talks.

Ms Sturgeon said in her daily briefing: “While I understand the desire for speed of the recovery, the sustainability of the recovery really matters.”



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