Nicola Sturgeon unveils £230m emergency package to ‘boost’ ailing economy
Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a £230 million stimulus package to provide an “immediate boost” to Scotland’s beleaguered economy as it emerged that unemployment has soared during lockdown.
The cash will go towards high end firms based in areas like Edinburgh BioQuarter, as well as to public transport to adjust for social distancing.
The First Minister said she hopes to press ahead with the second stage of lockdown exit on Thursday which will give shops a firm date for reopening and factories the green light to return to work.
But she urged caution against moving too fast amid calls for the 2 metre social distancing rule to be relaxed to help the hospitality industry.
The SNP leader warned that today figures, which show that unemployment rose by 30,000 to 127,000 north of the border between February and April, will worsen in the months ahead.
The figures are likely to be an “underestimate” because they don’t cover those who are furloughed and won’t return to work.
The £230 million package was unveiled by Ms Sturgeon at her daily Coronavirus briefing today.
” Amongst other things this package will fund maintenance for further and higher education facilities and for roads,” she said.
” It will help public transport to prepare for physical distancing measures and it will include a further investment in companies of high potential and in development such as Ravenscraig, Edinburgh BioQuarter and the Michelin site in Dundee.
“It is designed to support projects that can provide an immediate boost to jobs and growth while also helping us prepare the economy and public services for the future.”
Ms Sturgeon also announced that “individual training accounts” will be made available to people out of work and on low incomes after they help 80,000 Scots last year to develop new skills and take up new positions.
The latest figures on Coronavirus show there were five news deaths in Scotland, and although suspected hospital cases rose by 116 to 986, there was actually a fall of 16 in confirmed cases.
Business leaders are now calling on Ms Sturgeon to move faster on taking the country out of lockdown to restart the economy.
The First Minister said she is “hopeful” that she will be able to announce on Thursday that stage 2 of lockdown exit can get underway, which will include restrictions are lifted inn the coming weeks on workers returning to factories, construction continuing its restarting and smaller shops can get a date for reopening.
” None of this will restore the economy immediately to full health but it will be a significant and a sustainable improvement on our current position,” Ms Sturgeon said.
” I want to get all of Scotland moving out of lockdown.
” It will not simply be a flicking off the switch on Friday morning and all of these that have been sought will start.
” But I hope we can have some really significant steps taken for all of Scotland to start getting back to normal.”
Article published in The Scotsman, 16 June 2020