BORIS Johnson has brushed aside SNP calls for the UK Government to extend its popular furlough scheme in Scotland if asked to do so by Edinburgh as one Whitehall insider branded them a “hypothetical grievance”.

The furlough scheme, which will now run across the UK for eight months until the end of October, has eight million workers on it at a cost to the taxpayer, so far, of more than £11 billion. The idea behind the scheme is to keep as many people as possible in the workplace and ready to resume work to help the economy bounce back quickly.

During Scottish Questions in the Commons, Mhairi Black for the SNP asked Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary: “Given England has decided to ease lockdown measures earlier than the other three nations of the UK, can he give assurances that the citizens of the devolved nations will still have access to the UK furlough scheme for as long as the lockdown must continue in the devolved nations?”

Mr Jack insisted this was a matter for the Treasury. On Tuesday, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, made clear there was a “time-limit” on the Job Retention Scheme and that, like other schemes, by the end of October it would have been “wound off”.

Ms Black, who represents Paisley and Renfrewshire South, asked the Secretary of State: “If this Parliament insists on following a policy of England’s way or no way and does not leave any leeway for the devolved nations, will he, as Scotland’s representative in Government, lobby the Prime Minister for the devolution of the fiscal powers necessary for the Scottish Government to implement their own furlough scheme?”

Mr Jack insisted this was not the time to reopen and re-examine the Scottish fiscal framework agreement between the two governments.

He told MPs: “The UK Government have given huge support to the whole United Kingdom through the furlough scheme, the self-employed scheme, the bounce-back loans and the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. There has been a huge package of measures to keep money in people’s pockets and to keep the economy as strong as it can be when we return to something near normal.

“Have I argued Scotland’s case? Yes, I have. We have an extension coming on August 1, running to October 31. I hope that we can get people back to work over that period and get the economy up and running, to save people’s livelihoods. While we are very focused on saving people’s lives, we must remember that after that comes saving their livelihoods,” added the Scottish Secretary.

Later during Prime Minister’s Questions, the SNP’s Marion Fellowes pressed Mr Johnson, arguing that if Whitehall refused Edinburgh’s request for a furlough scheme extension, this would undermine devolution by “slashing incomes” before Scots could go back to work.

The MP for Motherwell and Wishaw urged him to extend the scheme north of the Border for as long as the Scottish Government and Holyrood deemed it necessary.

Mr Johnson insisted he continued to be “very happy” with the level of co-operation between the UK and Scottish Governments and then told Ms Fellowes: “I just remind her, of course, that Scotland has benefited from about £1 billion pound of coronavirus funding in the last period and will get about £3bn overall which perhaps is a material consideration on which she might like to reflect.”

A senior Government source later made clear UK ministers had no intention of extending the furlough scheme’s timescale north of the Border and pointed out that £3.7bn that had gone from the Treasury to Scotland to cope with the coronavirus was simply the amount of Barnett Formula consequentials; the total figure of direct funding to Scotland through initiatives like the Job Retention Scheme, he suggested, was several billions of pounds more.

On the calls to consider extending the furlough scheme in Scotland, the insider told The Herald: “This is not a real issue. Scotland and other parts of the UK are not moving at hugely different paces in terms of easing the restrictions.

“A scenario in which Scottish businesses are locked down for significantly longer than other parts of the UK only arises if the Scottish Government is much less successful than other parts of the UK in controlling the virus. It’s a hypothetical grievance.”

But post-PMQs, Ms Black returned to the subject, saying the Tory Government must be clear on whether it intended to “prematurely cut off” access to the furlough scheme for thousands of people and businesses across Scotland.

She added: "It would be completely unacceptable for the Tories to push households further into hardship by cutting off support during this public health emergency.”

Meanwhile, Mr Jack defended making a 700-mile trip to Westminster to answer questions in the Commons after the SNP’s Allan Dorans, via video-link, said he had ignored Scottish Government advice to stay at home.

The Secretary of State replied: "MPs are key workers but, more importantly, as a Cabinet minister and a Secretary of State, it is right that I should be here in the chamber so I can be properly scrutinised and answer these questions.”

Later, Mr Dorans, the MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, pressed the PM on the same issue, asking him to "condemn or condone" Mr Jack's behaviour.

Mr Johnson said: "All I can say is no, I won't. The Secretary of State for Scotland does an admirable job."Afterwards, a Government source pointed out how dozens of MSPs, including Nicola Sturgeon, left home to attend Holyrood. “It was really quite a silly attack, that demeans the SNP,” he added.