THE SNP have written to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak demanding an urgent U-turn on a cut to Universal Credit and the scrapping the furlough scheme.

They warn that the Tory Government is taking the UK towards “mass unemployment and soaring poverty”.

Ian Blackford, right, who has led calls to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extend the furlough scheme into 2021, said the new restrictions being imposed across the UK made it “imperative” that the Prime Minister and Chancellor finally see sense.

The SNP Westminster leader has consistently called for the measures to support workers and unemployed people over the past six months but has been repeatedly rebuffed by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor – who have also refused to devolve financial powers, preventing Holyrood from taking such action for Scotland.

Yesterday, new analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK unemployment rate grew to a three-year high of 4.5% in the three months to August, compared with 4.1% in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, redundancies have risen to their highest level since 2009.

That number is expected to rise further if the Tories scrap the furlough scheme this month, with analysis from Citibank suggesting unemployment could hit 8.5% in the first half of 2021 – the highest level since the 1990s.

Blackford said: “The Tory Government is taking the UK towards a devastating winter of mass redundancies and soaring poverty which will cause lasting harm to our communities for many years to come.

“The SNP has been calling for a U-turn on Tory plans to slash Universal Credit, and scrap the furlough scheme, for the past six months. With a second wave of coronavirus hitting the UK, and increased restrictions in place, it is vital that, even at this late stage, the Prime Minister and Chancellor finally see sense and extend financial support to protect people’s jobs and incomes.

“It has been clear for some time that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have taken a deliberate decision to let unemployment rise – just as the Tories did under Thatcher in the 1980s. If the Tories do withdraw this crucial support, in the middle of a pandemic, they will never be forgiven for the damage they will do.

“For many, it is already too late. Thousands of people have already lost their jobs and good businesses have already gone under because the Tories failed to deliver the support required.

“Scotland has been put in the impossible position of responding to this unprecedented crisis at the same time that the Tories have been cutting back support and deliberately blocking the devolution of the financial powers the Scottish Parliament needs to protect our economy.

“The Tory Government must think again – stop the cuts to universal credit, extend the furlough scheme and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament. But it is clearer than ever that the only way to protect Scotland’s economy is to become an independent country.”

Meanwhile, the ONS has said that while there was a slight employment increase between June and August (0.4%), the unemployment rate remained the same, at 4.5%.

Data shows the majority of Scottish workers were employed in services (83%), with 9.4% employed in production and 7.4% in other sectors.

The number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits more than doubled from the previous year – with 112,800 more people receiving benefits than in 2019.

Dr Stuart McIntyre, of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said the outlook remains “incredibly challenging” despite government schemes to soften the initial impact of the pandemic.

He said: “While unprecedented government support – including bounce-back loans and the furlough scheme – has helped many businesses to hang on over the summer, as this support tapers off many businesses are facing the hardest of decisions.

“In time, headline labour market measures will catch up and let us document the scale of the impact from Covid-19 but be in no doubt about the grim scale of the challenge currently facing many businesses and their employees.”