A new job support scheme unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of a winter economy plan has been given a mixed reaction.
The scheme, which applies across the United Kingdom, is aimed at directly supporting businesses to protect viable jobs and wages – rather than having to lay off employees if their trade has fallen over this time.
The Chancellor has also said he would extend the temporary VAT cut for hospitality and tourism businesses to Spring 2021, and redue loan repayments for government-supported “Bounce Back Loans”.
It comes amid plans to wind down the furlough scheme which has helped pay staff wages throughout the coronavirus lockdown.
Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said the UK government has taken a serious view on protecting jobs.
But Shetland’s Westminster representative, Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, insists too many people are still being left behind.
Mr Halcro Johnston said: “We know that the furlough scheme has protected enormous numbers of jobs in the Highlands and Islands during this difficult time – but also that it couldn’t continue indefinitely.
“As the furlough scheme comes to an end on 31st October, it’s right that the UK government has looked seriously at ways of protecting jobs and livelihoods over the winter, particularly with additional restrictions coming in to control recent outbreaks.
“The job support scheme will be available to a huge range of employers and will also extend to those businesses who have already made use of the furlough scheme.
“It recognises that an increasing number of businesses have been able to return to trading, whether remotely or in their premises.
“These measures are another great example of what we can do by working together, with the strength and breadth of a wider UK economy behind us.”
Mr Carmichael called on the government to close “gaps” and in particular to extend targeted support for the tourism and hospitality sectors vital for the Northern Isles.
“The extensions to the VAT reduction for hospitality and to self-employment support are welcome and absolutely necessary.
“I would urge the chancellor to start planning now for a further extension of hospitality support through to next summer, however.
“Ending the VAT reduction in March risks cutting off the recovery of our tourism sector right when it is ready to grow back strongly.
“This was another missed opportunity to provide support for those who have been excluded from government help to date.
“Three million people have still had no financial help from the government during the pandemic, through no fault of their own. After six months it is hard to claim that the government has not had enough time.”