Call to support Scottish alternative to austerity.
Official statistics released today by the ONS, covering the period June to August 2015, show that Scotland outperforms the UK as a whole on employment (73.7 per cent), youth employment (61.5 per cent) and female employment (71.5 per cent) rates.
However, with the statistics also showing an increase in unemployment, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it was important to sustain public sector investment to strengthen business confidence and deliver economic recovery.
Mr Swinney said this was a specific concern given the Scottish Government's success in public sector investment supporting growth in the construction sector. He said:
"While Scotland has now seen three years of continuous economic growth, and continues to exceed the UK in the total employment rate and in youth and female employment rates, today's figures show that there remain serious challenges to economic recovery.
"While we saw the economy grow 1.9 per cent over the year in recent GDP figures, this was driven in part by continued strong infrastructure investment by the Scottish public sector. This investment is threatened by the cuts the UK Government plans to implement to achieve its fiscal mandate. We also have concerns about the impact of UK cuts on wider business and investor confidence.
"The Scottish Government has put forward an alternative option for a UK-wide fiscal mandate, which would ensure the UK's debt and deficit are put on a downward path while allowing up to an additional cumulative £150 billion of investment across the UK by 2019-20 – with around £12 billion in Scotland – compared to the UK Government's current plans. Such investment would support continued economic growth and is in total contrast to the huge public spending reductions that have been set out by Westminster.
"The picture for youth employment does, however, remain strong with youth employment nearing pre-recessionary levels. Young Scots leave education and enter the jobs market a number of weeks before their counterparts in the rest of the UK – and this is reflected in these figures. The drop in youth inactivity rates of 4.4 percentage points over the year also shows that more young people are entering the labour market.
"In recent months we have invested over £10 million into supporting young people into jobs through recruitment incentives to employers delivered in partnership with local authorities and Community Jobs Scotland, as well as offering 25,500 Modern Apprenticeship opportunities in 2015/16.
"Over the summer we launched a consultation on how services to help the unemployed would look when these are devolved to Scotland in 2017. The consultation closed last week, with Ministers having undertaken many meetings across the country on the way forward, where a range of views were offered.
"One thing has been abundantly clear – we need a distinct, Scottish approach that is tailored to the needs of our people to make a real difference to people's lives and replace the Work Programme which has failed to support those who need most help to get a job.
"We must maintain momentum and ensure that every power at our disposal is used to grow the economy, increase employment, lower unemployment and remove barriers to the jobs market."
Labour market statistics can be found here.