Unemployment in Scotland ‘could hit 1980s levels’

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop pledged a new £100m employment support fund, with half set aside for young people.

Unemployment in Scotland ‘could hit 1980s levels’ Getty Images
Joblessness: Latest figures show 15,000 more are unemployed.

Scotland could see levels of unemployment not experienced since the 1980s, economy secretary Fiona Hyslop has warned.

Addressing MSP, she pledged at least half of a £100m employment support fund will go towards helping young people.

Hyslop promised a “national effort” to tackle rising jobless figures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as official statistics showed the number of people in work in Scotland fell by 47,000 between March and May.

Over the same three months, the country’s unemployment total rose by 15,000 to stand at 120,000, or a rate of 4.3%.

The UK Government’s furlough scheme is due to end in October and experts fear that could mean a further rise in unemployment.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Hyslop said: “Today, statistics confirm the scale of the impact the pandemic has had on Scotland’s workers, businesses and communities.

“There is no doubt meeting this challenge will require a national effort…

“There is no monopoly on good ideas and I want to work constructively with parties across this chamber to protect our constituents.”

She added: “We are potentially facing unemployment on a scale not seen for decades as a result of coronavirus.

“Today’s announcements show that we are ready to rise to this challenge with investment to help ensure that people who have lost jobs, those at risk of unemployment and young people entering the labour market can benefit from more and better job opportunities.”

Conservative MSP Maurice Golden claimed comments from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the potential to require visitors from England to quarantine have put further jobs at risk.

He said the hospitality and tourism sectors have seen bookings cancelled from south of the border due to concerns over the issue.

Golden said: “Press reports today show English tourists are cancelling bookings due to fears over Nicola Sturgeon’s quarantine comments.

“These comments are a material risk to Scottish jobs.”

He also condemned the SNP’s “lack of business understanding”.

But the economy secretary replied: “If you want to spread doom and gloom, you have done so.

“We need confidence for our tourism sector, we have reopened fully in terms of hotels and restaurants and pubs as of yesterday, that is good news.”

Meanwhile, the minister also announced the Fair Start Scotland support scheme is being continued for another two years.

The programme helps those who may have struggled to find work because of disability, health problems or responsibilities, and it will now continue until March 2023.

Hyslop said the extension of the initiative will offer “stability and continuity to the most vulnerable and those furthest from the labour market”.

She added that more details of work being done to develop a jobs guarantee scheme for young Scots will be set out next month.