NICOLA Sturgeon has backed the denial of coronavirus aid to firms registered in tax havens. 

The First Minister said she supported the idea “in principle” after Denmark announced tough restrictions on the type of companies it would fund through the crisis.

The Bloomberg news agency reported the Danish government will exclude companies seen to act against the best interests of society from its latest bailout programme

Companies which pay out dividends to shareholders, buy back their own shares or are registered in tax havens won’t be eligible for financial support.

The move coincided with the UK government opening its Job Retention Scheme to applications this morning, with 67,000 claims in the first 30 minutes.

Under the scheme, the government will cover 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed staff up to £2500 a month.

At the daily Scottish Government briefing on Covid-19, Ms Sturgeon was asked about Denmark’s actions and whether she would consider pushing for the same restrictions here.

She said: “I think companies that don’t operate in a fair way should not be necessarily easily able to access public funds.

“So in principle - obviously I don’t know all of the detail of what has been done in Denmark - but in principle, yes, I do think those kinds of principles have to apply here.

“We want support to be available for businesses, but we want that, obviously as we would with any form of public support to go to those most in need.

“So we’ve said, if businesses feel they don’t need to access some of the grants we’re making available, or some of the wider support that’s coming through the UK government, then don’t apply for it.

“Because we want as much as possible of his to go to the businesses that most need it, and of course we always want businesses to operate fair work practices, and also play fair n terms of paying their taxes and contributing to society.

“If anything, this experience right now is showing us the importance of that, the importance of that collegiate nature of society, where we all do the right things and support each other where we need it.”

However company law and many of the biggest support scheme, including the one for wage support,are reserved to Westminster.

The issue of which firms are supported has been thrown into sharp relief by Sir Richard Branson seeking lineline support for his Virgin Atlantic airline group.

The billionaire, who is the UK’s seventh richest person with an estimated £4.7bn, wants a £500m bailout.

The entrepreneur has paid the Exchequer no personal income tax since moving to the tax free British Virgin Islands 14 years ago, where he owns a private island.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said it unacceptable that billionaires should be “milking the system” at a time of national crisis.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, tweeted: “Richard flog your private island and pay your staff, we are in unprecedented times here. Now is the time your staff need support after making mountains of cash for the company.”