SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has called on the Tories not to repeat the “mistakes of the past” and take action to prevent the unemployment of the Thatcher years returning.

With at least 8.4 million workers in the UK furloughed as a result of the coronavirus crisis, he is calling for the scheme to be continued as long as lockdown continues in Scotland and in each of the devolved nations. 

Speaking ahead of MPs returning to Westminster this week after recess, Blackford urged Johnson to rule out a return to austerity cuts which characterised the Tory Government of the past 10 years and instead introduce Universal Basic Income and strengthen the welfare system.

Blackford said: “The Tory Government must not repeat the mistakes of the past. There must be no return to the soaring levels of unemployment we saw during the Thatcher years, which would push millions of people into poverty and hardship. 

“As we return to Parliament, Boris Johnson must rule out a return to Tory austerity cuts and instead commit to serious investment to stimulate economic growth, boost jobs and secure a strong recovery. 

“Access to the furlough scheme must be maintained for as long as Scotland and the devolved nations remain in lockdown – so people are not penalised for this public health emergency.”

Blackford said independence would give Scotland full economic powers – but without that the Scottish Government must given powers to help the country make a strong recovery tailored to specific needs. 

He said the UK Government should follow the example of the European Commission, which has unveiled plans for a €750 billion aid package to help the EU recover.