Rishi Sunak talks up coronavirus help to thousands of Scottish firms as he heads north of the border
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Credit: PA)
Rishi Sunak has talked up the impact of the Treasury’s coronavirus support schemes in "every corner of the UK" ahead of a Scotland trip by the Chancellor.
Mr Sunak, who will visit Scottish firms that have received UK government help, pointed to new figures which show more than 130,000 businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken £4.7 billion through Covid-19 loan schemes.
But the SNP said the trip showed ministers were in "full panic mode" amid rising support in the polls for Scottish independence.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Sunak said: “I recently set out the Government’s next steps towards economic recovery and securing the UK’s long-term prosperity in our Plan for Jobs.
“As we embark on this next phase, the latest figures demonstrate that we are continuing to support jobs, incomes, and businesses across every corner of the UK.”
More than 65,000 Scottish, 41,000 Welsh and 25,000 Northern Irish firms successfully applied for the Bounce Back Loan and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), with retail, construction and the hospitality sector benefitting the most, the Treasury said.
Meanwhile around a third of employees in every region benefitted from the furlough scheme, with the devolved nations set to receive £3.6bn in extra funding to support the coronavirus recovery.
Mr Sunak said his Job Retention Bonus announced last month would help businesses keep furloughed workers, and he talked up moves to protect jobs with VAT cuts for hospitality and tourism and the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme.
Meanwhile, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the Government's "unprecedented" multi-billion pound schemes had "helped firms of all sizes, in all sectors, and in every corner of our United Kingdom".
“Today’s data shows just how big an impact our measures have had, providing breathing space for millions of businesses, safeguarding jobs and protecting people’s incomes," he added.
“As we bounce back from the pandemic, we will continue to prioritise jobs and skills, while placing the environment at the heart of our recovery."
But the SNP's Alison Thewliss said Mr Sunak should use his "flying visit to apologise for the devastating impact of his extreme Tory Brexit plans, which have already left Scotland billions of pounds poorer".
The party's Treasury spokesperson added: "Rishi Sunak must use his Westminster promo tour to explain why Scotland has been completely ignored throughout the Brexit process, and why the Tories are sidelining our interests in the trade negotiations with a power grab on the Scottish Parliament.
"The truth is Tory ministers are in full panic mode because they know the majority for independence is growing as more people agree the only way to properly protect Scotland's interests and our place at the heart of Europe is to become an independent country."
Speaking on his own visit to north Wales on Thursday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned a "one-size-fits-all" approach by the Government would not work as efforts to kickstart the economy are stepped up.
"The focus has to be on jobs and making sure that good businesses don’t go under," he said.
"That’s why we’re saying to the Chancellor: the furlough scheme is good, but don’t end it for every business and every sector at the same time. Have some flexibility, have further support for the sectors that absolutely need it to make sure that they don’t go under."