Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon warns of ‘significant impact’ on jobs

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Media captionCoronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon expects to see rise in unemployment in key report

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned of a rise in jobless figures due to the coronavirus lockdown.

She said statistics are likely to show a “significant impact” on the number of people in work in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon also called for more support from the UK Treasury to avoid further damage to the economy and jobs.

She was speaking at her daily briefing after the latest figures showed the UK economy had contracted by 20% in the first month of lockdown.

The first minister said the figures confirmed that the health crisis had become an economic crisis.

Ms Sturgeon said the latest Scottish unemployment figures, to be released on Tuesday, would cover February to April – the first full month of lockdown.

She said she expected to see “a significant impact on employment and a rise in unemployment.

“Sadly, despite all our best efforts, that situation is likely to remain challenging in the period ahead.”

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK’s economy shrank by 20.4% in April, the largest monthly contraction on record.

The contraction in the UK economy is three times greater than the decline seen during the whole of the 2008 to 2009 economic downturn.

Ms Sturgeon said she had previously welcomed the UK government’s interventions such as the furlough scheme, which has paid people whose businesses were unable to operate during the lockdown.

But she said now was the time for a further extension of support, like had happened in countries such as France – perhaps for as long as two years.

“The alternative to extended support being put in place is either that businesses are forced to reopen before it is safe to do so, and that could damage health and cost lives, or businesses have to take an even bigger hit – and that will cost jobs,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon also repeated her call for an extension to the Brexit transition period so businesses are able to concentrate on the post-Covid recovery.

The first minister told the briefing that the Scottish government was looking to do “everything we can” to support the energy sector, announcing a £62m energy transition fund for the sector.

She said there had been three deaths in the past 24 hours of people who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon also said new research by the Scottish government showed that the “vast majority” of Scottish people supported a gradual easing of restrictions.

She said the research found that 90% of respondents would be willing to isolate for 14 days if asked, 90% would be willing to undergo testing, and 88% were happy to provide details of their contacts if they had symptoms of Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon described the research as “encouraging”.

She said: “Test and Protect is going to be a vital tool in keeping the virus suppressed, but Test and Protect can only work if all of us across the country are willing to comply with the measures that it sets out.”

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