'Boris Johnson is the type of banker who will gladly lend you an umbrella when the sun is shining'

OVER the weekend the news that the UK Government was refusing to commit to making the full 80% furlough scheme available to Scotland outwith the English lockdown period brought almost universal condemnation.

From the STUC to the Scottish Sun editorial, there was support for the Scottish Government’s localised approach to tackling the virus and the notion that the furlough must be available when Scotland needs it. Even Douglas Ross seemed belatedly to agree.

However, the First Minister and Kate Forbes found it impossible to get a clear undertaking from UK Government Ministers and it appeared that the broad shoulders of the Union were not nearly as broad as we were led to believe.

Under questioning at Westminster this afternoon, the Prime Minister twisted and turned. His responses to Ian Blackford and other SNP MPs were evasive and conveyed the impression that furlough would only be available throughout the UK for the next month.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson dodges questions on furlough for devolved Covid lockdowns

Not until Douglas Ross got to his feet did the PM seem to commit to making furlough available to other parts of the UK when it was needed there, as opposed to only when necessitated by the situation in the south of England. Or did he?

Boris Johnson is the type of banker, as the old saying goes, who will gladly lend you an umbrella when the sun is shining but wants it back at the first sign of rain.

So, it is reasonable to fear that while Scotland can have crucial furlough support now when the Scottish Government is trying to avoid a full lockdown there is no guarantee the money will be available later if the Scottish Government needs it.

Moreover, no matter what the Tories say today it is not safe to rely on their promises for future planning.

In Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Dublin they know that that this Tory Government’s word is not its bond. If they are prepared to renege on their international legal obligations how much more likely are they to break yet another promise made to the people of Scotland.

What’s really going on here? Was the PM’s latest dance of the seven veils this afternoon just part of a carefully choreographed charade to present the new Scottish Tory leader with a concession which can be spun as a good news story in the face of terrible opinion polls for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party and their little helpers in Scotland?

And will it be conveniently forgotten weeks down the line?

READ MORE: SNP Westminster MPs joined by Unionist defectors, UK media reports ...

Either way there is real anger and frustration in Scotland. For months the SNP have asked for an extension of the furlough scheme and been told that it was not possible. Then, well beyond the eleventh hour when stricter measures were necessitated by the spread of the virus in the south of England, we are told that the scheme is to be extended for a month.

For many it is already far too late. Before this last-minute announcement many businesses had already taken devastating decisions. As a result of Tory policy across the UK thousands have lost their jobs unnecessarily, many good businesses have gone under, and millions have been excluded. We now face a Tory unemployment crisis - and the blame lies firmly with Boris Johnson and the straitjacket of the UK.

What we should take from this situation is really quite clear. This Union is no union of equals. Devolution is not working, and Scotland needs to be in full control of her own affairs.

The plans to ensure that we take back control sooner rather than later should be expedited.