Unemployment concerns loom as furlough scheme winds down

MP Patricia Gibson has called on the Government to extend the furlough scheme.

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Unemployment figures released by the Government have painted a stark picture, not only for Arran but for the entire Ayrshire region, of how the pandemic has affected the area economically and how the situation is anticipated to get worse once the furlough scheme winds down.

The figures released on Tuesday have revealed that 7,390 people in North Ayrshire claimed out-of-work benefits in August with 6,340 people in East Ayrshire and 5,005 in South Ayrshire all contributing to the regional total of 18, 735 people who claimed during the month. This equates to 8.4 per cent of the working age population and nine per cent for North Ayrshire.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said the figures continue to be deeply worrying and he believes unless more is done, the rates of unemployment will only get worse as the furlough scheme finishes at the end of October.

Colin Smyth said: ‘The level of unemployment seen in these statistics is deeply shocking and it is particularly devastating among young people across Ayrshire.

‘If this continues, we risk losing a whole generation to the scourge of unemployment, which is heart-breaking. What is worse is that these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. They exclude the thousands of other people locally who are no longer employed compared to last month but don’t receive benefits.

‘I also fear the number of people out of work will rise significantly in the next few months as the UK Government furlough scheme finishes at the end of October.

‘We should never forget that behind the numbers are local people whose livelihoods have been snatched from them, so my thoughts are very much with all those affected.

‘Ayrshire is standing on the edge of an unemployment crisis and without more Government help to support jobs, the number of families who will find themselves out of work is going to rise significantly. Covid-19 is first and foremost a health crisis but it has also now become a massive economic crisis.’

Last Thursday, Arran’s MP Patricia Gibson led a debate at Westminster on retaining furlough in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem MSPs in the Scottish Parliament voted together for the following motion, ‘That the Parliament believes that the UK Government’s furlough scheme should be extended to provide support and certainty to employers and workers in Scotland for as long as public health restrictions are required to control the spread of COVID-19, recognising that there are specific sectors that will be affected for a longer period.’

Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson said: ‘Since April, furlough has maintained the viability of businesses and protected jobs over a period unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes. Ending furlough prematurely runs the risk of pushing many into crisis.

‘On Arran, hospitality and tourism businesses are particularly vulnerable.

‘As highlighted by the Scottish Government’s chief economic adviser, an eight-month extension could reduce unemployment in Scotland by 61,000.

‘Many businesses have a viable long-term future only if they continue to be supported. Keeping people in jobs rather than transferring through social security makes sense, as does sustaining businesses.

‘Scottish Ministers moved quickly at the pandemic’s outset, putting in place a package of support worth more than £2.3 billion for Scotland’s businesses. This included £49.7 million for ferry services, £34 million for the newly self-employed hardship fund, to help those not covered by UK support; £30 million for the creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises hardship fund, £14 million in large hotel relief and £120 million in the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund to help businesses vital to local economies.

‘Across Scotland £937 million in rates relief was provided, with over £66 million in grants to almost 6,000 businesses across Ayrshire, including Arran.

‘Going forward, £97 million will support creative industries, with a £100 million green jobs fund, £25 million transition training fund and £60 million youth guarantee fund to help everyone in Scotland under 25 obtain employment, education or training.

‘France and Germany are extending their furlough schemes as are Ireland and Denmark, of similar size to Scotland, realising that only through on-going help and support can they protect jobs and promote business survival.

Meanwhile at Westminster, SNP MP Gavin Newlands, in a Bill known as the Fire and Rehire Bill seeks to ‘Prohibit employers dismissing employees and subsequently re-employing them for the purpose of diminishing the terms and conditions of employment; and for connected purposes.’

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth described the unemployment figures as shocking and devastating.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth described the unemployment figures ans shocking and devastating. No_B39unemployment01

MP Patricia Gibson has called on the Government to extend the furlough scheme. No_B39unemployment02