CHANCELLOR TOLD TO ACT AS RESTRICTIONS TIGHTENED TO TACKLE PANDEMIC

As further restrictions come into effect today (Saturday) to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the SNP has renewed calls on the UK government to urgently release the £21.3bn of Covid-19 reserves in order to support the economy and businesses.

In a letter to the Chancellor, Alison Thewliss MP said that, if released, the multi-billion pound Covid-19 reserve set out in the UK Spending Review could see Scotland receive its share totalling around £1.7bn if the whole amount was allocated to devolved spending areas.

The call comes as new strains of the virus and subsequent tightening of restrictions have added further pressure to businesses and the NHS. Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK economy shrank by 2.6% towards the end of 2020 – with the services sector, including pubs and hairdressers, one of the hardest hit.

Earlier, the Federation of Small Businesses issued a stark warning that around a quarter of a million small businesses could be forced to close this year due to a lack of government support.

Commenting, the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said:

“At a time when businesses face a further tightening of public health measures to tackle the pandemic, and the emergence of new variants of the virus increases pressure on the NHS, it is critical that the Treasury does everything it can to support businesses, the economy and public services.

“While the funding brought forward so far has been welcome, it is clear that the sheer scale of the challenge posed by the coronavirus crisis demands strengthened financial measures to prevent firms from going under, jobs being lost and households pushed into hardship.

“I have written to the Chancellor calling on the UK government to step up to the challenge and urgently release the £21.3bn of reserves set out in the UK Spending Review – which, if released, would see Scotland receive its share of around £1.7bn.

“The UK government must act now to strengthen support and fix the gaps in measures, extend job support schemes for as long as necessary – rather than setting arbitrary deadlines – and devolve financial powers to Holyrood so it can take the necessary steps.

“Scotland has been left to tackle this pandemic with one hand tied behind our back. It’s clear that only by becoming an independent country will we be able to properly protect our interests, economy, businesses and people’s livelihoods.”

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