MSPs have backed calls to extend the furlough scheme beyond the end of October.
Following a debate on Thursday, MSPs voted by 89 to 28 to back a motion saying the UK Government scheme should be extended “for as long as public health restrictions are required to control the spread of Covid-19”.
The coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) has protected about 779,500 Scottish jobs, around a third of the workforce.
While no extension has been announced, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he will continue to consider “creative and effective” ways to protect jobs.
The Scottish Government’s business minister Jamie Hepburn called on MSPs to support his motion.
He said an extension of the job retention scheme for eight months could reduce unemployment by 61,000.
Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asked if he agreed that the scheme was “among the most generous in the world”.
Mr Hepburn said: “I’m quite happy to concede that the UK furlough scheme has been an excellent initiative.
“That that might be why I am here today, Mr Fraser, urging the UK Government to extend such a sensible scheme.”
He said there was concern the job retention bonus scheme did not target support at those who needed it most.
The Tories’ economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: “There’s a balance to be struck – spending more increases debt, can decrease potential credit rating for the UK, increase the cost of borrowing and risk stagflation.
“However we do need to stop long-term scarring and that’s why I’ve consistently argued for sector-specific packages.”
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie backed calls for the furlough scheme to be extended but also called on the Scottish Government to do more to tackle youth unemployment, arguing their proposed job guarantee scheme lacked “ambition”.
Ms Baillie referenced research by the Institute for Public Policy Research predicting 34% of young people will lose their jobs when the furlough scheme ends.
She said: “That’s 100,000 young people, the highest ever level of youth unemployment seen in this country.
“That is truly catastrophic, and we need radical action, if we’re not to condemn a generation of young people to the dole queue.”
Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone said that the cost of the furlough scheme “pales in comparison” with the bank bailout following the financial crash and the estimated price of renewing the Trident nuclear missile system.
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