IAN Blackford has written to Boris Johnson demanding "cast-iron confirmation" the furlough will be available to the devolved nations should Covid force them to enter lockdown.

If the UK Government fails to do so, "it will prove, yet again, that you cannot trust a word that Boris Johnson says - and that Scotland will never be an equal partner in the UK", Blackford warned. 

The letter follows a series of confusing exchanges in the Commons this afternoon, in which Johnson repeatedly refused to guarantee the scheme would be extended, before telling Douglas Ross it would be.

The SNP's Westminster leader said this amounted to a "catalogue of vague, evasive and confusing answers", and that clarification was required.

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The Prime Minister was first asked about whether the furlough would be available during devolved lockdowns by Blackford.

In a direct question, the SNP Westminster Leader asked Boris Johnson if he would guarantee that the Treasury would make full 80% furlough payments available to Scottish workers and businesses, whenever it is requested by the Scottish Government, over the coming months - and not just in periods when England is in lockdown.

The Prime Minister responded: "The answer is yes." 

However, he then gave a series of increasingly confusing answers to MPs from different parties who sought a firm commitment of this U-turn.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said: "The Prime Minister must give a cast-iron written confirmation of the commitment he made in the House of Commons today.

"Scottish workers and businesses deserve a concrete guarantee - not the appalling catalogue of vague, evasive and confusing answers we have seen from Boris Johnson today, which seemed to be a deliberate attempt to avoid the question. It’s not good enough for people whose jobs are under threat.

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"Scotland has called for a full furlough extension for the past six months - but the Tory government has repeatedly refused. It is a democratic disgrace that they were only willing to act when England faced lockdown - and not when Scotland needed support.

"We now need absolute confirmation, in writing, that if the Scottish Government requests full 80 per cent furlough payments, at any future point, the Treasury will provide that. Otherwise it will prove, yet again, that you cannot trust a word that Boris Johnson says - and that Scotland will never be an equal partner in the UK.

"For many it is already too late. As a result of Tory cuts, thousands have already lost their jobs unnecessarily and many good businesses have gone under. By withholding financial support and blocking the devolution of powers, the Tory government has deliberately hindered Scotland's ability to respond to this crisis and damaged our economy.

"The UK now face a Tory unemployment crisis - and the blame lies firmly with Boris Johnson. Whatever happens now, it is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland's interests is to become an independent country."