THE SNP have criticised the Tory Government’s “deeply worrying” decision to scrap this year’s Autumn Budget, saying the furlough scheme must be extended.

The UK Treasury announced yesterday that “now is not the right time” for the finance plans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “Reports that the Chancellor is scrapping the UK Budget are deeply worrying and put Scotland in an impossible position – threatening the Scottish Government’s ability to plan for its own budget.”

He added: “Scotland shouldn’t have to wait for Westminster to act.

“Thousands of people have already lost their jobs while Westminster has dithered.

“This crisis has shown that the only way to properly protect Scotland’s economy is with the full powers of an independent country.”

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Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes highlighted the “irony” of the move, tweeting: “This decision is breath-taking in its disregard for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

“If there is no UK Budget, how are devolved governments meant to set our own budgets? Local government, the NHS, [and] taxpayers all depend on confirmation of spending and tax plans.

“The irony of the Tories scrapping the Budget (which provides vital certainty for public services and taxpayers) by arguing ‘now is not the right time to outline long-term plans’ whilst proceeding to implement the long-term disaster that is Brexit.”

The Job Retention Scheme is due to finish by the end of next month, and without the Government propping up the payroll, firms across the UK are likely to let staff go.

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The latest Office For National Statistics labour force survey revealed UK unemployment has risen to 4.1% and the number of employed workers has fallen by almost 700,000 since March. Separately, analysis from the Scottish Government shows extending the furlough scheme by eight months could save around 61,000 jobs in Scotland.

The Financial Times said last week that if the Budget was postponed, Chancellor Rishi Sunak would probably still deliver a “mini-spending review” this autumn.

Sunak is expected to announce an extension of the furlough scheme in some form today. He said: “As our response to coronavirus adapts, tomorrow afternoon I will update the House of Commons on our plans to continue protecting jobs through the winter.”

It comes as Blackford challenged Boris Johnson on the issue at PMQs, saying he must “show the leadership required” and save jobs. He said: “The Prime Minister must announce an immediate extension, no half-measures, no half-baked projects, to this vital and life-saving scheme. Will the Prime Minister show the leadership required and save the jobs?”

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Johnson responded: “What we will do, as I’ve said throughout, is continue to put our arms around the people of this country going through a very tough time and come up with the appropriate, creative and imaginative schemes to keep them in work.”

Blackford said that the last thing Scots at risk of losing their jobs due to the furlough scheme ending want is a hug from Johnson. He said:

“Yesterday [Tuesday], the only reassurance the Prime Minister gave those Scottish workers [was] saying that he would throw his arms around them. Prime Minister, I can tell you the last thing those 61,000 Scots are looking for is a hug from you.”

On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that Sunak was weighing up a German-style wage subsidy scheme to replace the furlough through the winter.

Under those proposals, companies would pay staff for the time they are at work, while the Treasury would cover part of their wages for a time when they have no work.