Nicola Sturgeon has announced £33 million will go towards helping people back to work in Scotland once lockdown eases as she said the restrictions are creating an “economic emergency”.
Speaking at the latest Scottish Government coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said a rise in unemployment underlines the need to restart the economy as quickly as can be done safely.
Ms Sturgeon announced 2,134 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up 29 from 2,105 on Monday.
A total of 14,655 people have tested positive for Covid-19, a rise of 61 from 14,594 the previous day, she added.
There are 1,447 patients in hospital with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, up 20 from 1,427 on Monday.
Of these, 59 people are in intensive care, a fall of four.
Speaking after the latest unemployment statistics were published, Ms Sturgeon announced the new cash boost to help people return to work.
She stressed Scotland’s unemployment rate, which is currently 4.1%, is “relatively low” by historical standards but warned the figures “do not reflect the full economic impact of the pandemic” as they only cover to the end of March.
She said the rise in unemployment “undoubtedly further demonstrates the need to carefully get our economy moving again as quickly as we are able to do that safely”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “We know that the essential public health measures that we have had to take to deal with what is a public health emergency are in themselves creating an economic emergency.”
Speaking about the new funding, she said: “We will be investing a further £33 million to support people back to work as we gradually get the economy opened up again.”
She said most of the funds would go to the Fair Start Scotland scheme and will “have a particularly focus on helping those most adversely affected”, including young people, disabled and lone parents.
The First Minister added: “We are determined to do everything we can to protect Scotland’s workforce, to minimise as far as we can the increase in unemployment, and also to ensure that we are ready for a sustainable recovery.”
NS: "From today, all parents and carers in Scotland will have access to the programme - if you are interested in this, you can find more information by going to https://t.co/Rfk9JVMn2m."— The SNP (@theSNP) May 19, 2020
She also announced more help to support the mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers.
All parents and carers will now be given access to an online programme which allows them to “learn what their child may be going through and to develop nurturing, supportive relationships”, Ms Sturgeon said.
She added: “One of the most important things to remember during Mental Health Awareness Week for all of us is that it is OK sometimes not to feel OK and that when that is the case help is available if you need it.”
The Scottish Government is due to publish a “route map” on Thursday, setting out how on a phased-basis coronavirus restrictions could be lifted.
“My hope and intention is we will take the first concrete steps on that journey next week,” Ms Sturgeon said.
She added people could “increase both the likelihood and the extent of that by sticking to the rules now”.