UK coronavirus live: Rishi Sunak extends furlough until end of March

R number in Scotland ‘hovering around 1’, says Sturgeon

At first minister’s questions, which began as Rishi Sunak was making his furlough statement, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a further 1,216 new cases of coronavirus in Scotland and 39 deaths, adding that the latest estimate of the country’s R number was likely to show it “hovering around 1”.

She said that this was thanks to tough measures taken earlier in the autumn as well as public compliance starting to have an effect on the infection rate.

Noting that the new English lockdown measures begin today, Sturgeon repeated that she “can’t rule out a full lockdown” in Scotland “but right now we are in a better position”. She also cautioned that next week’s review of Scotland’s tier system of Covid control would be “taking a very cautious and precautionary stance”.

Because the furlough statement was happening simultaneously, it was only raised briefly by Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson Alison Johnstone.

Sturgeon said that she hadn’t seen to detail of the UK chancellor’s statement yet, but that the “acid test” for it would be whether somebody on 80% furlough now, regardless of whether they live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, will continue to be on 80% once England comes out of full lockdown.

Sturgeon also said it was “deeply regrettable” that businesses had made people redundant or gone into liquidation because they expected the scheme to end at the end of October. “We should have had the ongoing reassurance of furlough at 80% all along.”

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Nicola Sturgeon at first minister’s questions

Nicola Sturgeon at first minister’s questions Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was quick to claim his part in the U-turn, after Rishi Sunak confirmed that the furlough extension would be available to devolved nations, describing this as “a demonstration of the strength of the union”.

Ross said:

Scottish Conservative pressure has delivered. All week, we’ve made the case that Scottish jobs had to be protected at all costs. We’ve worked constructively with the UK government and pushed them for answers where necessary.

Ross praised Sunak, saying he had “blown the SNP’s grievances out of the water with an extra billion pounds for Scotland, and shown again that the UK Government will do whatever it takes to support jobs throughout this pandemic.”

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