Gordon Brown calls for Tory-SNP alliance as he lectures on avoiding economic catastrophe
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The former Labour leader, who was Prime Minister between 2007 and 2010 called on the UK Government to put in place a targeted furlough scheme for places hit by local lockdowns, such as in Aberdeen. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Mr Brown also urged the Scottish Government to ramp up its testing regime to ensure local clusters can be caught.
The two administrations should come together and end the “Punch and Judy show” between Holyrood and Westminster, Mr Brown urged, to protect jobs as the UK recovers from the pandemic.
Mr Brown said: “We should be under no illusions – the jobs crisis we are facing this autumn is unprecedented.
“This employment emergency cannot be dealt with by the Scottish Government on its own or the UK Government on its own – ‘go it alone’ policies will prevent us saving jobs.
“That is why I am urging our devolved and UK-wide governments to negotiate such a plan for Scotland.
“Neither the UK Government’s plan to end furlough outright, nor the Scottish Government’s demand to extend it in a blanket form are the best way to plan our future.”
Mr Brown also pushed both governments to form an alliance for full employment, saying neither would be able to deliver as much alone as they would if they worked together.
“If we are to rescue the North Sea, provide equity or financial help for recovering businesses, or solve the problem of youth unemployment, we need co-ordinated action from both the Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions and the Scottish Government.
“Dealing with youth employment, for example, needs the support of the UK-wide social security system and the collection of the UK-wide apprenticeship levy and the help provided by the Scottish education and training systems.
“That’s why an alliance for full employment is needed.
“Leaders who pass each other like ships in the night – without ever talking to each other and often failing to acknowledge each other – are doing huge damage to our ability to deliver jobs.
“This is no time for the Punch and Judy show of Holyrood versus Westminster.
“We need co-operation not conflict to help Scotland through the storm.”
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The former prime minister was taking part in an event at the festival with Frans Timmermans, a vice president of the European Commission.
At the same time, the SNP warned against a return to damaging Tory austerity cuts – after treasury figures revealed that UK borrowing rose past £2trillion.
The Treasury figures further revealed that approximately 935,000 positions had been supported by the Westminster furlough scheme raising concerns about the future of Scottish jobs once the scheme comes to an end in October.
Alison Thewliss MP, the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor at Westminster warned that the UK government must rule out another decade of austerity and instead introduce a major coronavirus recovery package and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament to stimulate the economy and secure a strong recovery.
She added: “Instead of more damaging cuts, the Chancellor must bring forward a major coronavirus recovery package, and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can stimulate the economy and secure a strong recovery.
“The measures he announced in July go nowhere near far enough.”
But Maurice Golden MSP, Scottish Tories economy spokesman, said: “The UK Government furlough scheme has protected nearly a million Scottish jobs and the Scottish Conservatives are bringing forward a jobs plan to help rebuild and restore our economy.
“The SNP Government need to start doing their bit to get the Scottish economy moving again.”
In response, Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, stressed that the UK was “focused on getting our economy back on track with innovative and targeted support.”
He warned that there were “very real economic challenges ahead” but stressed: “I am clear that the UK Government will continue to do everything possible to support people across the whole of the United Kingdom.”
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