Labour have outlined plans for a £1.2bn programme that it has hailed as “the most ambitious job creation scheme in the history of the Scottish Parliament”.
As campaigning ahead of May’s Holyrood election continued on Tuesday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar announced the jobs recovery plan.
While he recognised the proposals would be expensive, rising unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic meant the country could “not 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.
Sarwar has also called for the rate of pay for apprenticeships to be doubled.
Meanwhile Douglas Ross has called for Scotland to come out of lockdown earlier, saying public health data pointed towards a quicker reopening.
The Scottish Conservative leader wants to see restrictions, which are currently planned to end on May 17, lifted on 26 April instead.
These include indoor openings of pubs and restaurants with a 10.30pm closing time, cinemas subject to capacity restraints and blended learning for universities and colleges.
Ross pointed to the progress of the vaccine programme, with more than 2.5 million Scots receiving their first dose, and falling numbers of people in hospital.
He said: “The SNP Government should not keep Scotland under restrictions any longer than we need to because every day that the Government delays, the impact grows on mental health, physical health and family finances.
“We are facing a looming jobs crisis that will be far worse if the Government holds back on a return to normality.
“This is the time to back businesses and work with them to start rebuilding Scotland now.”
The SNP promised additional cash help for unpaid carers if re-elected to power at Holyrood next month.
Nicola Sturgeon hailed the “immense contribution” made by unpaid carers, particularly over the last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The party is now proposing to make a double payment of the Carers Allowance Supplement this year – worth £460 – in recognition of the additional burden that has been placed on those who look after a loved one.
The First Minister also said if re-elected to government, the SNP would then seek to introduce a new Carers Assistance payment, to replace the current Carers Allowance.
This would pay out a further £10 a week to those who are caring for more than one disabled person, and would also extend the amount of time that this can be claimed for after the death of someone, from eight weeks to 12 weeks.
In addition, the SNP plan to replace the current UK winter fuel payment with a new winter heating payment for older Scots – which would be paid at the same rate and not means tested – helping about one million households a year.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have called for sweeping reforms to be made to the way Holyrood operates – which could potentially see MSPs given the power to appoint Scotland’s most senior civil servant.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said his party was “looking at” if the position of Permanent Secretary should be an appointment made by the Parliament as a whole.
The move is part of a series of reforms the Liberal Democrats want to see made to the Scottish Parliament following the May 6 election.
With Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also open to changing the way Holyrood operates, Rennie said he could work with other parties to try to introduce legislation.
“We would want legislation to be brought in early doors,” he said.
“I think within the first six months we would want some legislation drafted, consulted upon and then introduced.
“We need to make sure we have got momentum behind this, to make sure people don’t forget how difficult it was, so we can drive it through.”
His comments come in the wake of concerns that Parliament was unable to effectively scrutinise the actions of the Scottish Government during an investigation into the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond.
MSPs twice voted to order the Government to release legal advice, but this was only done after the threat of a no confidence motion in Deputy First Minister John Swinney being carried.
The Scottish Greens meanwhile claimed that almost 17,000 jobs could be created by updating Scotland’s railways.
The party has already published plans for a £22bn package of improvements to the country’s rail network.
As well providing better transport links for communities and helping cut emissions, the Greens said their plans would see 16,800 jobs created in the construction of new rail infrastructure.
Green co-leader Patrick Harvie highlighted the impact the party’s Rail for All plans could have as he campaigned in Glasgow on Tuesday.
And while he said the proposals were “ambitious and transformative”, he insisted that “the climate emergency demands no less”.
Finally, Alex Salmond has said voting for the Alba Party is in “Scotland’s national interest”.
In an address on Tuesday, Salmond launched the Alba Party’s campaign for the Scottish elections in May, where he repeatedly pushed for a supermajority of MSPs to be elected in support of independence.
However he failed to say the number he believed to be the threshold for a supermajority.
The former first minister also outlined his party’s view on how independence could be achieved if most MSPs elected were in support of separation.
Within the first week of the new parliament, Salmond said, the Scottish Parliament should instruct the Scottish Government to start negotiations with the UK Government, creating a “standing independence convention” formed of elected representatives.
Their purpose would be to “give support and substance to the Scottish Government’s independence negotiating position”.
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