Holyrood and Westminster must ‘work in tandem’ on jobs crisis

Think tank Reform Scotland said both governments had a degree of responsibility for dealing with unemployment.

The Scottish Government is being urged to work with Westminster to tackle the employment crisis Scotland is facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Think tank Reform Scotland said as both governments had a degree of responsibility for dealing with unemployment, partnership working was necessary for any proposals to be “as effective as they can”.

It insisted Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration and Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government in Edinburgh “must work in tandem, not against each other” and added: “Individuals desperately searching for work have little concern for constitutional politics.”

The think tank made the plea in a new report on the issue of training in the wake of the pandemic.

As well as calling for partnership between the two governments, Reform Scotland said ministers also needed to work with local councils and private businesses.

And it said ministers must now have the same focus on dealing with rising numbers of jobless in Scotland as they had on helping the NHS in the early days of the pandemic.

Reform Scotland stated: “At the start of the year the Scottish Government acted fast, implemented change, and thought the unthinkable to ensure our health system could cope with the potential threat of Covid-19.
“As we move out of lock-down and restore freedoms, that same focus must now turn to unemployment.”

The report called for a major expansion of the Individual Training Account (ITA) scheme which provides some people with cash to help with the cost of gaining new skills.

“While 14,000 ITA applications are allowed for, that figure is dwarfed by the 736,500 Scots who have been furloughed,” it noted.

With more people now working remotely, instead of from the office, the report also warned that those without access to data, devices and space to work would find themselves disadvantaged.

Noting that communication company EE was currently providing unlimited data to NHS staff, the think tank questioned: “Can that same spirit be utilised to help those out of work?”

It went on to suggest people should be able to book rooms in public buildings free of charge where they could go to do online interviews.

Reform Scotland director Chris Deerin said: “The Covid-19 crisis is an unprecedented event in our lifetimes, and it requires an unprecedented response.

“Just as the government and the nation mobilised to bolster the NHS during the early stages of the virus, we now need to mobilise to help the economy recover.

“We face a jobs, training and growth crisis. The Government has to lead us out of it, but it cannot and should not do it alone.

“Due to the technological revolution, the shape of the economy was changing anyway, so these difficult times also offer an opportunity to match the workforce to future opportunities in growth sectors.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We understand the devastating impact this pandemic has had on employment, and our focus is on protecting, creating, and supporting skilled jobs.

“We recently set out our strategy for building a stronger, fairer and greener economic future for Scotland after Covid-19, including policies to generate significant economic growth while supporting jobs, skills and training.

“We are developing further skills interventions to support these objectives and our ambitions for an agile, competitive and inclusive economy.

“The winding down of the UK Government’s furlough scheme will put even more jobs at risk, and we remain disappointed the UK Government has declined to extend the Job Retention Scheme for sectors that will continue to be affected by the virus beyond October.”

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