Labour has outlined plans for a £1.2 billion programme that it has hailed as “the most ambitious job creation scheme in the history of the Scottish Parliament”.
Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, admitted the plans for his party’s jobs recovery plan were expensive – but with the country facing rising unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, he insisted: “We cannot afford not to act.”
Scotland is facing a “potential unemployment emergency” following the health crisis of the pandemic he said, with about 360,000 workers across the country still on furlough.
Labour’s plans include making £500 available for every person who is unemployed or on furlough to pay for training to help them find work.
To further help those who do not have a job, they would get an “additional support supplement of up £750” while undertaking this training.
Mr Sarwar explained this would effectively “pay them to go on training” and “incentivise them even further” to do this.
Labour also wants to see the UK Government’s Kickstart job creation scheme expanded, and a further 5,000 apprentices recruited across Scotland.
To encourage young people into this form of training, he called for the rate of pay for apprenticeships to be doubled.
The Scottish Labour leader said: “We want to be able to be in a position to say we are going to be able to guarantee a job for anyone who wants one across Scotland.”
Mr Sarwar stressed the need to “confront the potential unemployment emergency we could have after this pandemic”.
He added: “That is why having a jobs recovery at the heart of this recovery plan, the most ambitious job creation scheme in the history of the Scottish Parliament, that would demonstrate a bold ambition for the next parliament.
“A parliament not interested in egos, settling scores or going back to the old arguments, a parliament that is instead focused on getting people back to work, strengthening the economy.
“It has to be a jobs-based recovery, we cannot allow a generation of people to pay the price for the pandemic, and pay that price with the opportunities in their lives.”
He insisted action was needed, saying: “We risk coming through this crisis and then having an employment crisis across the country.
“I think we risk a national emergency around jobs and the economy.”
He insisted the money that would be spent on a jobs recovery scheme was “a drop in the ocean” compared to what the coronavirus job retention scheme had cost.
The Scottish Labour leader added that in the wake of the health crisis “the next big challenge we face is a possible national emergency around unemployment”.
Arguing that “ambitious plans” were needed in such circumstances, Mr Sarwar insisted: “There [are] billions of pounds of recurring and non-recurring spend available in the Scottish Government budget, we can’t afford not to take this urgent action.”