Scottish Labour has urged the Government to work with it to protect the incomes of Scots suffering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With more than 300,000 people still on furlough in Scotland and 119,000 without a job at all – and with unemployed expected to increase when the job retention scheme ends later this year – the party’s finance spokesman Daniel Johnson said the Scottish Government must “pull out all the stops” to protect jobs and get people back into work.
He urged ministers to adopt Labour manifesto pledges on employment, which included a job guarantee for young people or the long-term unemployed – an initiative being worked on by the Scottish Government that Labour has criticised – as well as increasing the number of apprenticeships and extending the wage subsidy of the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme to 12 months instead of six.
Johnson said: “With hundreds of thousands of Scots furloughed or unemployed and struggling to make ends meet, the Scottish Government must pull out all the stops to protect family finances.
“The financial wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Scots is on the line and the SNP’s jobs plan is simply not fit for purpose.
“During the campaign, Labour set out a clear vision to protect and retain jobs including a programme to provide every young or long-term unemployed Scot a job or training opportunity.
“The scale of the current crisis demands this level of ambition.
“Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP to work with us in the national interest to protect family finances and build a fairer and more productive economic recovery.”
The plea comes at the end of a week in which it was announced the Scottish Greens are in talks with the SNP Government over a potential co-operation agreement.
Announcing the discussions – which she said were moving to the next phase after successful initial talks – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said she had had conversations with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in the wake of the election.
Sturgeon went on to say she would like to “develop these discussions further”.
A spokesman for Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “We are doing everything within our current powers to protect jobs, help business and support family incomes as we chart our way through the pandemic.
“But Scottish Labour’s hypocrisy is staggering. They know that many of the key economic powers we need for a fair and sustainable recovery are in the hands of Boris Johnson’s Tory Government at Westminster – and they support them remaining there instead of Holyrood being in control.
“Since the start of the pandemic, businesses have benefited from £3.6bn in business support, and we are investing more than £1bn to drive forward our national ambition for jobs and to equip our workforce with the future skills it needs.”
She said a support package is also in place for young people.