RISHI Sunak put the Union at centre of his emergency mini-budget, claiming “no nationalist” can “ignore the undeniable truth” that help had only been possible for Scotland during the coronavirus crisis because it is part of the United Kingdom.

The SNP’s Mike Russell described the remark as “insular rubbish.”

The Chancellor made the claim as he laid out a number of measures that he hopes will stimulate the UK’s battered economy and keep unemployment away from the record highs predicted.

Speaking to MPs, Sunak laid bare the damage done by coronavirus and the lockdown, revealing that the UK economy has contracted by 25% in two months, the same amount it had grown in the previous 18 years.

Key planks of the Chancellor’s summer statement included a cut to VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20% down to 5%, a £2 billion green homes grant, and a new Eat Out to Help Out scheme to give diners 50% off meals out in August.

On jobs, Sunak announced a new £2bn “kickstart” scheme to create thousands of placements for young people.

The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

Sunak told the Commons: “These will be new jobs – with the funding conditional on the firm proving these jobs are additional. These will be decent jobs – with a minimum of 25 hours per week paid at least the national minimum wage.”

Currently, that’s pegged at £4.55 for under-18s, £6.45 for 18 to 20-year-olds, and £8.20 for 21 to 24-year-olds.

Sunak said employers will need to provide training and support to find a permanent job, adding: “If employers meet those conditions, we will pay young people’s wages for six months, plus an amount to cover overheads.”

He said the hope is for the first people to be in their jobs by autumn, with an initial £2bn made available and no cap on the number of places available.

However, the Chancellor rejected calls to extend the furlough scheme, saying it “cannot and should not go on forever”.

Instead he unveiled a new “jobs retention bonus” to reward and incentivise employers who bring furloughed staff back.

Sunak said: “If you’re an employer and you bring back someone who was furloughed – and continuously employ them through to January – we’ll pay you a £1000 bonus per employee.”

The Chancellor said if employers bring back all nine million people who have been on furlough then it would be a £9bn policy.

He added: “Our message to business is clear: if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you.”

The Treasury said the announcements will result in £800 million for Holyrood in Barnett consequentials. Sunak said the “sum total of Barnett funding for Scotland as a result of all the interventions through this crisis is now £4.6bn”.

READ MORE: Summer statement: Where Chancellor Rishi Sunak went wrong

The Chancellor told MPs the crisis had “highlighted the special bond which holds our country together.”

Sunak added: “Millions of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been protected by the UK Government’s economic interventions – and they will be supported by today’s plan for jobs.

“No nationalist can ignore the undeniable truth: this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Taking to Twitter, Russell, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs said this claims was “Exceptionalist rubbish. And insular rubbish too – just look around Europe.”

In the chamber the SNP’s economic spokeswoman, Alison Thewliss, pointed out that “countries around the world have supported their people in this crisis and the only UK exceptionalism is in being among the countries where the most people have died”.

She said that while the SNP supported the job support schemes, the Government should have been more ambitious.

Thewliss told the Chancellor: “Our bright, talented young people are worth so much more than 25 hours a week on minimum wage, rather than a real living wage, with age discrimination baked in.

“For many of those young people, it will not be so much a kick-start as a kick in the teeth to be told to go to work for so little money.”

The STUC pointed out that the Chancellor’s kickstart jobs scheme amounts to a salary of about £8,000 a year. This, they added, was “about £10,000 short of a living wage salary.”