THE First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have written to Boris Johnson to demand that the devolved nations do not "again" find their responses to the coronavirus handicapped by a lack of financial support. 

The two leaders said that economic levers which are outwith their control had previously been "switched on as required for England", while Wales and Scotland lost out.

Up to November 2020 calls from the devolved nations to extend the furlough scheme fell on deaf ears at Westminster, until England was forced into lockdown. 

The English lockdown forced a last-minute U-turn from the Tory government, who extended the furlough scheme into 2021.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: Union of Equals would furlough when needed, not wait on England

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said at the time: "The PM only acted when England needed support. When Scotland needed full furlough support, the PM said no."

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader, and Nicola Sturgeon called on Johnson to make sure this situation was not repeated amid fears of the impact the Omicron variant may have on the UK.

The two FMs also called on Johnson to immediately convene a Cobra meeting to discuss a tougher four-nations approach to Covid-19.

You can read the First Ministers' letter in full here:


The emergence of Omicron poses a potential threat to the UK. It is clear that the strain is already here and that it appears highly transmissible. We need to work collectively — and effectively — as Four Nations to take all reasonable steps to control the ingress of the virus to the country and then to limit its spread.

We are clear that a Four Nations approach to issues such as border restrictions is the most effective approach. This requires that a meeting of the COBRA Committee be held as soon as possible.

We would wish to use that opportunity to see the latest evidence from UK Government health professionals on the variant and to understand the international picture along with the implications that it might have for the UK.

In particular, we believe the reinstatement of a requirement for a 'day 8' PCR test for travellers arriving into the UK — alongside the 'day 2' requirement already announced, and thereby requiring isolation for that whole period — is now necessary. Public health advice is unequivocal that this is the best and safest way to protect against the importation of this variant to the fullest extent possible.

While our public health systems work hard to minimise the spread of cases already in the UK, it is imperative that we do all we can to avoid under-cutting these efforts by permitting on-going importation.

We also wish to confirm that devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event more interventionist measures are required to respond to the public health situation. In our view, it would be better to consider this now, in advance of a potential escalation in the seriousness of the situation, to support effective planning.

In particular, it is important for us to agree that if the conditions in a devolved nation were to require more significant interventions than in England, the agreed package of financial support would be available to that nation. We do not want to be in a position again where our public health interventions are negatively impacted by a lack of financial support, but can be switched on as required for England.

Given the public interest in our working together to achieve the strongest possible response to this threat, this letter is being made public.

Yours sincerely, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford