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British Government ‘open minded’ about extending furlough scheme, Michael Gove says

The UK Government is “open minded” about extending the furlough scheme, a leading member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet has insisted.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will use a four-nations summit with the Prime Minister on Thursday to push for the job retention scheme to continue beyond its current September expiry date.

Now Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has indicated it could be continued.

Asked about the possibility of this, he said: “We are open minded, yes.”

Speaking ahead of the four-nations summit on tackling Covid, Mr Gove said the initiative, which sees the taxpayer pay cash towards workers’ wages, had been a “huge success” that was only possible “thanks to the broad shoulders of the UK Treasury”.

The UK Government minister insisted higher spending as a response to the coronavirus pandemic would continue, as the country as a whole seeks to “build back better”.

The Scottish Government has voiced concerns about a possible return to austerity from the Conservatives at Westminster, but Mr Gove told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We’ll be spending more.

“We’ll be spending more on the NHS, we will be spending more on education, we will be spending more on criminal justice, because in all of these areas it is absolutely vital that we build back better.

“Extra funding for everyone will continue, and it is important we all learn from each other about how that money should be spent.”

His comments come ahead of a virtual coronavirus recovery summit involved Mr Johnson and the leaders of the devolved governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

The rearranged meeting was due to take place last week but was postponed after the first ministers of Wales and Scotland pulled out because they wanted it to be a “meaningful discussion with substantive outcomes”.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister asking for more substance and clarity about the summit.

Ahead of the summit, the Scottish First Minister has called on the UK Government to extend furlough again – and ensure pre-existing inequalities are not further exacerbated by the crisis.

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