The Tories’ management of the pandemic has seen a surge in support for independence movements in both Wales and Scotland.
A Plaid Cymru MP has hit out against the government for not not extending the furlough scheme to Welsh workers before England went into national lockdown.
Wales imposed a ‘firebreak’ lockdown from 23 October until 9 November to curb the spread of coronavirus cases. But when the Welsh government asked the Treasury to expand the coronavirus job retention scheme, it was refused.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also refused to begin the Job Support Scheme a week earlier to cover the firebreak, saying it was ‘not possible’.
Ben Lake MP criticized the government for not extending support to Wales until England begins its own lockdown on Thursday. He argued that this resulted in people across Wales losing their jobs.
The MP said: “I welcome the Chancellor’s swift action to support businesses in England, but it is regrettable that Welsh workers were not prioritised in the same way.
“People across Wales have been made redundant in recent days due to the UK Government’s dithering.
“In order to avoid plunging workers and businesses in Wales into further uncertainty, the UK Treasury must commit to maintaining the furlough scheme in Wales for as long as the Welsh Government deems it necessary to support our public health measures.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford also described the way Wales had been treated over financial support after they imposed restrictions as ‘not fair at all’. The Scottish government have also asked, and failed to get, assurance from Westminster that the furlough scheme would be extended to them if they need to go into lockdown beyond the duration of the English one.
The Tories’ management of the pandemic has seen a surge in support for independence movements in both Wales and Scotland. Since the start of the pandemic, membership of Welsh independence group YesCymru has more than quadrupled to over 11,000 members. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s perceived competence and clear communication during the crisis has contributed to an opinion shift where a clear majority of Scots would now consistently vote to leave the Union.
But even outside of the devolved nations, Sunak’s handling of furlough has not been without criticism. After weeks of very strong language from the government denying the possibility of a second lockdown, the Tories made a U-turn last Saturday, after their plans had already been leaked to several papers.
Many criticized the timing of the announcement just as the previous furlough scheme ended, meaning that many companies had already made staffing decisions and laid workers off.
Last week, Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme also came under fire when research indicated that it led to a ‘significant’ rise in Covid infections.
Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist
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