OF all the support measures implemented as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, perhaps the most wide reaching and innovative has been the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme – commonly known as furlough. 

According to figures announced by HMRC last week the scheme, by which the UK Government is directly paying 80% of the wages of employees right across the country, has helped to support over 600,000 jobs in Scotland. In Glasgow that amounts to more than 77,000 families having the security of a pay packet during these challenging times when otherwise their employer would simply have been unable to sustain the cost of wages. On top of these incredible figures, an additional 146,000 people in Scotland have claimed under the separate scheme for those who are self-employed.  

The Chancellor’s recent announcement that the furlough scheme will be extended until October, with added flexibility to support a phased return to work as we begin to emerge from this crisis.

The furlough scheme is just one of the examples of the ways in which the UK Government has sought to support households right across Britain. Unlike other devolved schemes like business support grants, it doesn’t matter if you live in Parkhead or Pontypridd – the furlough scheme has helped to provide for families right across our United Kingdom. This is on top of the £3.8billion of additional funding for Scotland – as well as access to UK-wide VAT deferral, company loans and a strengthened welfare safety net – that proved the strength that comes from pooling resources across our family of nations.  

In my own patch, data shows Glasgow East has been the largest beneficiary from the furlough scheme of any constituency in the city – with a total of 12,800 jobs being directly underpinned here by the UK Government. 

In contrast, we’ve also learned in recent days that Forge Market traders in the East End will continue to be denied the business grant funding they should be entitled to because of updated Scottish Government guidance. 

David Linden MP was quick to take credit on social media when he thought his government had fixed this issue but it’s now clear that he falsely raised the hopes of market traders in a shameful exercise in self publicity.  

Shockingly, the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) which represents market traders right across the UK have told me that they have had no engagement with the Scottish Government regarding eligibility for Coronavirus Business Support Grants – despite having written to a Scottish Government minister over a month ago. 

Their figures show that 84% of non-essential goods traders do not employ any staff, 80% are not liable for business rates for their stall/unit and 70% are sole traders. So despite David Linden’s assertions to the contrary, it’s clear the vast majority of Forge Market traders do not meet the eligibility criteria dreamt up by the Scottish Government. 

The NMTF has also told me it believes Glasgow Forge Market traders would be eligible for support under the equivalent scheme in England and that they find it “odd” that the Scottish Government has introduced eligibility criteria to include the requirement to have a business bank account and employ staff.  

It’s a complete dereliction of their responsibility to the people of the East End that the SNP didn’t bother consulting the industry before making these rules and didn’t even consult their own party’s Member of Parliament. 

The tale of two governments this week has never been so stark. On the one hand a UK Government working flat out to preserve jobs and incomes right across the country. And on the other a Scottish Government too busy manufacturing division that their own separate schemes are utterly failing those that need them most. So much for ‘standing up for Scotland’.