BORIS Johnson has insisted the UK is “absolutely not going back to the austerity of ten years ago” in order to deal with the economic fallout from coronavirus

The Prime Minister said he wanted to spend billions on infrastructure rather than slash spending as his Tory predecessors did in the wake of the 2008/09 financial crash.

The SNP welcomed the pledges, but said it wanted to see the reality match the rhetoric.

Mr Johnson, who makes a keynote speech on the economy in the Midlands on Tuesday, warned the coming recession would hit the country like a “thunderclap”.

But in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, he said the UK would build its way back to health by accelerating a raft of infrastructure schemes in the Tory manifesto.

A taskforce headed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak - dubbed Project Speed- will be in charge of expediting 'shove-ready' projects such as roads, rail, hospitals, prisons and schools. 

However Mr Johnson also admitted many people would lose their “old jobs” and would need to be helped back into work through an “opportunity guarantee”. 

The number of people out of work in the UK has already jumped by almost a quarter because of the Covid lockdown, hitting 2.8million in May.

A new analysis by the House of Commons library said another 1m people could be up to the jobless total unless extra support is given to struggling businesses. 

That would make unemployment even worse than under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, when the total peaked at 3.3m in 1984, creating long-lasting social problems.

Mr Sunak has said the furlough scheme keeping millions off the dole will end on October.

In his newspaper interview, Mr Johnson said: “This has been a huge, huge shock to the country but we’re going to bouncer back very well.

“We want to build our way back to health. We are going to be doubling down on levelling up.

“If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences.

“We’re going to be ready. The lesson is to act fact and we’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need. 

“We are absolutely not going back to the austerity of ten years ago.”

Mr Johnson said Tuesday’s speech would be a “very big moment”, with Mr Sunak giving a linked speech on the economy next month.

The PM said: “We’re going to need a very committed, dynamic plan. 

“Not just for infrastructure, not just for investment, but making sure that young people have the confidence they need that we are going to help them get into a place of work, to keep their skills up, to keep learning on the job and get a highly paid, highly skilled job that will stand them in good stead for a long time to come.

“We are going to have plans for work placements, supporting young people in jobs, apprenticeships, getting people into the workplace, making sure that their skills don’t just fall into disuse and we’re going to give an opportunity guarantee for all young people.”

In a bizarre moment in the interview, Mr Johnson, 56, tried to prove he was recovered from his near-death brush with Covid by doing a press-up in his Downing Street office.

“I’m as fit as a butcher’s dog,” he said, aiming to dispel rumours of continued ill-health.

“The country is going to bounce forward, and I certainly feel full of beans. Never felt better.”

Although day-to-day UK spending on health and education normally leads to a proportionate rise on Holyrood’s budget, this may not be the case with big infrastructure items.

Instead, the UK Government may try to fund individual projects in Scotland directly.

SNP MSP Tom Arthur said: “The very last thing we need is yet more Tory cuts.

“You can’t cut your way into economic growth – a lesson the Tories appear to have belatedly learned after a wasted decade of austerity. 

“Pledges of investment are welcome – but, as always with this Prime Minister, we need to see if the reality will match the rhetoric. 

“The UK government must not short change Scotland or deny us the powers needed to meet the scale of this crisis.

“The Scottish Government cannot be forced to tackle a generation-defining crisis with one hand tied behind its back.”

For Labour, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the furlough scheme should continue for those sectors of the economy in the deepest trouble. 

Her said: "The scale of the economic emergency facing us is enormous. 

“But the government is pulling the rug from under businesses employing one million people by demanding they start bearing the cost of the furlough when they don't even know when they can reopen.

"The government's approach will put jobs, businesses and livelihoods at risk which will impose costs on us all. 

“Sectors in distress should get special help, and the furlough scheme, and economic support must go hand in hand with public health measures designed to keep us safe."