The Prime Minister is reportedly facing backlash from his own MPs after a host of u-turns in dealing with the pandemic – resulting in Labour pulling level with the Tories in polling for the first time in over a year.
A snapshot Westminster survey by Opinium put the Tories and Labour neck and neck on 40 per cent – showing the Conservatives have let a 26-point lead slip during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Liberal Democrats stood at six per cent in the poll – while the SNP are at five per cent, in a UK-wide poll.
Ian Blackford has warned the UK Government’s decision to end the furlough scheme in October is the “height of irresponsibility” and would “kick the legs away” from Scotland’s “capacity to recover” from the crisis.
But Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has claimed that the collective response to the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the “undeniable” strength of the Union.
Mr Blackford claimed that people were weighing up the “very firm” leadership of Nicola Sturgeon during the pandemic with the Prime Minister’s “u-turn after u-turn”.
The First Minister’s approval has held up during the coronavirus pandemic, while the Prime Minister’s has continued to flag, according to polls.
But the Scottish Government has also been forced into a series of u-turns over education during the pandemic – blended learning plans were scrapped, the exams moderation system that ministers asked the SQA to implement was axed and face coverings are to be made mandatory from today in certain parts of secondary schools where social distancing is difficult and on all dedicated school transport.
Mr Blackford said: “The lack of clarity, the shambles of the situation that we had with Dominic Cummings, a Prime Minister that makes u-turn after u-turn and I think rightly people are making a judgement on what they see as the choice of those two futures.
“I expect and understand that Boris Johnson had a desire to be Prime Minister, but I’m not convinced that he’s got the character and he has what it takes to be Prime Minister at a time of crisis such as this and I think he’s been woefully exposed.”
The SNP has repeatedly called for the furlough scheme to be extended past October, when the UK Government will pull the plug on the support.
Mr Blackford said there are “significant challenges” with stopping the programme, warning “many businesses are going to see three winters”.
He added: “To see its demise too early when the economy’s not in a position to deal with the adjustments that have to be made is the height of irresponsibility.
“If we don’t extend the furlough scheme as is required and this has to be done on a basis of need, then we’re going to put ourselves in a position that we’re going to have a material rise in unemployment that we could have avoided.”
But the UK Government has insisted that Scotland would not have been able to respond to the pandemic had it not been for billions of pounds of funding passed on from Westminster.
Mr Barclay has claimed the support given to Scotland would not be possible without the Union.