SCOTLAND'S Finance Secretary has urged the UK Government to extend the £20 Universal Credit uplift and the furlough scheme ahead of this week’s UK Budget.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Kate Forbes encouraged the UK Government to support Scotland as lockdown measures are set to be eased over the next six weeks.

Forbes argued that research conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicates that ending the weekly £20 uplift, which was introduced amidst the pandemic, would lead to 500,000 being forced into poverty.

She urged the UK Government to “do the right thing” and commit to a permanent uplift and extend it to legacy benefits to ensure “meaningful and effective long-term support” to those suffering as a result of the pandemic.

The furlough scheme is due to end in April – three months before both Governments aim to have the entire adult population vaccinated and two months prior to the earliest date when restrictions in England can end.

READ MOREScottish Budget: Kate Forbes pledges to work with Labour on care workers' pay rise

Therefore, Forbes said: “It is clear that the scheme needs to be extended beyond the present end date of April 2021.”

She added: “Whilst the rollout of vaccines provides hope that we will soon be able to return to normal, there remains a high level of uncertainty over how quickly public health restrictions can be lifted.

“It is clear that furlough remains the appropriate support for businesses that are not able to fully open, and it is essential that the UK Government commits to it remaining available to businesses in Scotland as long as restrictions remain in place.”

The Scottish Government is in the process of passing its budget and was forced to announce its draft plans before the UK Budget was announced, due to a delay, for the second year in a row.

Forbes said the levelling-up fund left a £400 million hole in the Scottish Government’s coffers, as the UK Government decided the fund should be administered across the UK by Westminster – similarly to the shared prosperity fund.

She explained that her officials learned of this through a news release.

READ MOREIan Blackford calls for £100bn Budget boost to avoid 'repeat of Thatcher years'

Forbes explained: “I have built my budget around reasonable expectations that UK Government expenditure in devolved areas in England would generate Barnett consequentials, and so I would be grateful for assurances that this £400 million gap in the Scottish budget will be filled.

“Scottish Government funding should not be cut to pay for UK Government policies that are designed to undermine the devolution settlement.”

A spokeswoman for the Treasury said: “The UK Government has protected nearly a million jobs and thousands of businesses in Scotland since the start of the pandemic.

“And just last week the Treasury provided the Scottish Government with an additional £1.1 billion, enabling them to support people, businesses and public services affected by coronavirus.

“At the Budget the Chancellor will set out the next stage of our plan to protect and create jobs in all corners of the UK.”