THE second Covid wave is sadly here. Hundreds of people in Scotland are testing positive every day, up from single figures only a few weeks ago. From student halls of residence to the hospitality sector, the pandemic is having a major impact on lives and the economy.

With the impending end of the UK job retention scheme, it is hard to be optimistic about the large-scale fall-out on jobs and livelihoods. It is going to be much worse than a winter of discontent for too many people: it will be devastating. Boris Johnson doesn’t seem to understand the scale of the problem. When confronted by Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford at PMQs this week, he promised “to put his arms around the people of this country”.

In years to come the premature end of the furlough scheme will be seen as a calamitous mistake. Its replacement will not save enough jobs, protect enough of the economy or address the holes in the system which already exclude too many from support.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak himself acknowledges we are heading for a winter of business failures and job losses: “We need to create new opportunities and allow the economy to move forward and that means supporting people to be in viable jobs which provide genuine security. As I’ve said throughout this crisis, I cannot save every business.

"I cannot save every job. No chancellor could.”

The major flaw however, its that his job support scheme is only backed with one-eighth of the resources made available for the furlough scheme. Many employers will be looking at the complicated arrangements and working out whether their businesses are viable at all.

The Bank England has already estimated unemployment will rise from 4.1% to 7.5% by the end of the year. The Scottish Government estimated that 61,000 jobs would have been saved if the furlough scheme were to be maintained.Now, many of those will be jobs lost entirely. Among the sectors fearing the biggest hit is hospitality and tourism, which is one of the most important to the Scottish economy and one of the largest employers. Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall said: “Employers cannot afford to pay staff when there is no work, so we can still expect to see mass redund-ancies.”

He said the plans fall “some way short” of what was urgently needed to rescue Scotland’s tourism industry from “a perilous situation”. Meanwhile, the extension of the current 5% VAT rate until March 2021 will only have a marginal effect on the industry, with many businesses being forced to make redundancies and close their doors for good. Just when we need our governments at different levels to be doing their maximum to protect jobs and there economy, sadly Whitehall is making things neigh on impossible for devolved administrations.

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Rishi Sunak has put off his 2021/22 Budget given all the uncertainties. He, of course, has the power to borrow to keep plans on course. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments do not have that option, and requests have been rebuffed.

How can decision-makers in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast make plans without basic information? The fact they learned about the Treasury’s plans via Twitter tells you everything you need to know about the lack of genuine, meaningful and effective co-operation from Sunak.

In the last week, it has been made abundantly clear that borrowing powers are being denied by the Treasury, investment is being withheld from the Scottish economy and devolution is being undermined by the Single Market Bill. In contrast, other countries have given a longer-term commitment to jobs and stability. Not only has Germany’s “Kurzarbeit” scheme been extended until the end of 2021, but is better suited to offset sectors with particular seasonal challenges.

The situation in the UK is bad enough as it is, but in addition the Brexit bombshell approaches at the end of this year, with a No-Deal departure still a significant prospect.

The triple whammy of the pandemic, the UK Government ending the furlough scheme and Brexit is horrific. Doing nothing is not an option. Additional costs to food and drink alone are now estimated at 20%, with 80% of food imports coming from the European Union. This doesn’t include the damage done to domestic producers that will see tariffs slapped on their exports to EU countries.

The winter of 2020 will be much worse than a winter of discontent. While we are all in it together in trying to combat coronavirus, too many people will have lost their jobs, lost their businesses and lost their homes. The loss of livelihoods and damage to individuals, families and communities will be immense and in too many cases it will have been avoidable.