MY FIRST column of this month highlighted the looming threat of mass unemployment in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, a threat that is growing by the day.

Every week sees more bad news on jobs, with the latest local unemployment figures showing an increase of over 100 per cent compared with last year.

Rising unemployment means that unless the furlough scheme is extended, and a quality jobs guarantee scheme introduced, even more households will find they cannot make ends meet.

Among the sectors most at risk are ones of vital importance to East Lothian’s economy, such as tourism and hospitality.

It is imperative that both the UK and Scottish Governments act now to save as many jobs as possible.

The scale of the unemployment crisis has led Scottish Labour to launch its ‘Jobs for Good’ campaign.

As well as demanding a jobs guarantee scheme, the campaign is also calling for a coherent industrial strategy, with manufacturing and a Green New Deal at its heart, to put Scotland back on track and ensure fairer, greener and better jobs for all.

In addition to acting to save jobs, ministers could also deliver extra financial help for those in need right now.

Anti-poverty organisations have repeatedly called for the Scottish Government to bring forward a payment to provide direct and immediate financial support to low income families, at least equivalent in value to the forthcoming Scottish Child Payment of £10 per week per child.

The Scottish Government has both the ability and moral obligation to do this and I hope they will act to give people the support they need now.

Finally, I am aware that many local resilience groups are in the process of winding up their activities supporting communities during lockdown.

I want to thank everyone involved in these groups for the crucial work they have undertaken to support the most vulnerable in our communities during this uniquely difficult time.