SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn, Fergus Ewing, has said the Tory government must perform an urgent U-turn over its reckless decision to withdraw support for jobs – after more companies in Highland voiced fears of redundancies after the furlough scheme ends next month.

Bakery chain Greggs, which has 25,000 workers across Scotland and the UK, is the latest company to indicate it may have to cut staff hours or jobs when the scheme ends, warning “with the Job Retention Scheme planned to end in October we are taking steps to ensure that our employment costs reflect the estimated level of demand from November onwards.”

It comes as a new survey revealed four in ten (42%) small and medium businesses think they will have a smaller workforce in December than they did in September, and a quarter think they might go out of business next year if there is a second wave of Covid-19.

Commenting, SNP MSP Fergus Ewing said:

“I recognise that the furlough scheme was very useful indeed for many businesses in what has been extremely tough times during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“However I am disappointed to see the UK Government make this decision to withdraw support for jobs. This will have a devastating impact to many business in the Highlands and add to growing fears of job losses.

“I have been working in my capacity as the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secreatary for the Rural Economy and Tourism directly with the UK Minister, Nigel Huddlestone, and urged that the furlough scheme be continued.  This is because it is still needed for many sectors such as tourism, where the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions are still substantial.

“However, the support scheme that the UK Government have brought in will not be sufficient and is particularly poor utility for worker on lower earnings.

“The tories must perform an urgent U-turn, reinstate a full job protection scheme, and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can protect our economy.

“We shouldn’t have to wait for Westminster to act while the livelihoods of people in the Highlands are on the line. If the Tories won’t act now to save thousands of Scottish jobs they will demonstrate beyond doubt that the only way to protect Scotland’s interests is to become an independent country.”