Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson had a “frank discussion” about the UK’s coronavirus recovery at a virtual four-nations summit today.
The first minister used the meeting to push for an extension to the furlough scheme beyond its current September expiry date and argued for extra investment in public services.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, who was also attending the summit, said the UK Government had an “open mind” to the proposals.
He said: “The meeting was very constructive, it was about the whole UK approach to the recovery from the pandemic and it was about what we can learn and how we can work better together.”
Asked about extending furlough he said “we’ve not ruled it out”, adding: “We’ve said we have an open mind.
“Who knows where we will be at the end of September, I hope we will have all of our businesses open across the UK and will be in a much better place.
“But, if a variant comes and gets round the vaccine it effectively puts us back to square one that could change things.”
Ms Sturgeon said “nothing substantial” had been agreed at the summit, but added: “I hope very much that there will be.”
She said: “It was a frank discussion, both I and the first minister of Wales made clear that if we’re to have good discussions about working together where we can, then that’s not helped by the power grab and the UK Government trying to muscle in on devolved spending.
“The proof of the pudding of all of this is going to be whether it has an impact, whether it changes any of the decisions of the UK Government.
“The Scottish Government’s put forward some very specific suggestions around the extension of furlough and the need for there to be be stability and certainty in public spending.
“If these summits are going to be worthwhile, we really need to see real progress.”
Mr Johnson is understood to have told those attending that he wanted to have regular meetings with the devolved administrations in the future, with the goal of “delivering tangible outcomes in the interests of people throughout the UK”.
The prime minister is also said to have acknowledged the differing views on the question of the constitution, but argued that should “not prevent us from working together to ensure a strong recovery for all parts of the country”.
The meeting was the first time Mr Johnson and Ms Sturgeon have spoken since the May 6 elections, in which the SNP won a historic fourth Holyrood term.
The summit was originally scheduled for last week – but was cancelled after Ms Sturgeon and Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford branded the offer a “PR exercise”.
In a joint letter to Mr Johnson, the pair said there was no clear agenda and that the outcome of the session had not been obvious.