Nicola Sturgeon could shut pubs in Scotland – if furlough solution is found


Nicola Sturgeon has hinted that she could shut pubs in Scotland if furlough support was in place.

The Scottish First Minister said she would “likely” have closed hospitality venues north of the border if she had the power to extend the furlough scheme.

She said Holyrood “mustn’t be hamstrung” by Westminster and she would write to Boris Johnson asking for an extension of the scheme or greater powers for devolved administrations.

Ms Sturgeon has already gone further than England by bringing in a ban on household mixing from Wednesday – after saying Mr Johnson’s plans did not go far enough to curb the spread of the virus.

Scotland has recorded 486 positive coronavirus cases in past 24 hours, the highest number ever recorded in a single day.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would have considered closing pubs in Scotland if furlough support was there

Ms Sturgeon told a briefing that the numbers were a “real cause for concern”, with 224 of the new cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, where there has been a significant outbreak at the University of Glasgow.

But she said she could not close pubs and bars without economic support for the struggling hospitality industry.

She said: “Many people ask me why we don’t just close pubs completely right now. And, actually, that is not an unreasonable question.

“And as I said yesterday, if the Scottish Government had the power to borrow money, or to extend the furlough job retention scheme so we could mitigate the impact on jobs, it is very possible, perhaps even likely, that we would have reached a different decision on hospitality yesterday.

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“But we went as far as we could within the powers we have.”

She said she would be writing to the Prime Minister on the issue.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We mustn’t be hamstrung in essential public health decisions by the lack of necessary economic mitigations.

“All four UK nations agreed a joint statement to the effect that we would focus our efforts ‘on suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there’ and that is really positive.

“It puts aside forever the idea that we can just let this virus run, because we know it does real damage in lives and in health.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “There is an argument… that all of us across the UK should actually be doing even more right now and there is a danger that what starts to hold us back is not the public health analysis but financial limitations.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure to extend furlough support after a backlash from businesses about a long list of new restrictions, which the PM said could last up to six months.

It comes after the First Minister announced a national ban on visiting other people’s homes – which had been in place in the west of Scotland.

She also announced a 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants – in line with the restrictions in England.





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