My ministerial colleagues and I often meet both the chairman and the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise to discuss a range of economic development and training issues. I contacted the chairman this morning to inform him that as part of the package of special measures that I announced last week, Scottish Enterprise will receive an additional £6 million added to this year's budget and Highland and Islands Enterprise an additional £1·5 million.
Does the Secretary of State remember the boast of his friend, party supporter and instigator of Scottish Enterprise, Bill Hughes, who said that the aim of the organisation was to eliminate Scottish unemployment? What time scale does the Secretary of State envisage for the achievement of that ambition, given that Scottish unemployment is rising remorselessly, that the modest aspects of recovery announced in the autumn statement were geared to the south-east of England and that it is widely reported that there will be substantial staffing cuts in the Scottish Enterprise training network? How can that combination lead to the elimination of Scottish unemployment, as promised by Bill Hughes?
The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that Scottish Enterprise was the latter manifestation of the Scottish development agency, with its functions changed dramatically so as to prevent it being the acquisitive engine of nationalisation that it was under the Labour Government. Now it is an engine of economic regeneration and is doing its work extremely effectively both at its own hand and through the local enterprise companies all over Scotland. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt also like to know that in the package I intend to increase the allocation for the trunk roads programme by £8·5 million, for local authority roads projects by £5 million, for health service and social work capital programmes by £10·25 million and for the water and sewerage programme by £6·5 million. That commitment of resources will go directly towards improving Scotland's infrastructure and reducing unemployment.
Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to reaffirm to the House—and when he does it will he do it slowly so that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) takes it in—that gross domestic product, per head, in Scotland is currently at an all-time high and that male take-home pay in the hon. Gentleman's part of Scotland is the highest in Scotland? Will he further encourage the hon. Gentleman to stop talking Scotland down every time he gets the chance to do so?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As a result of the improvement in the underlying economic infrastructure in Scotland, it is significant that the unemployment rate in Scotland is lower now than it is in the south-east of England. Whereas a year ago it was 0·1 per cent. higher than in the United Kingdom as a whole, it is now 0·4 per cent. lower than in the United Kingdom as a whole.
Unemployment is rising in Scotland, as it is rising elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in every industrialised country in the world, as a result of the world economic recession. However, what is significant is that unemployment levels in Scotland were, in June of this year, at broadly the same level as they were a year ago. Last month, and the month before that, the headline unemployment total in Scotland fell. Last month, job vacancies in Scotland were up. The indications are that the Scottish economy is responding to the measures brought in by the Government, Scottish Enterprise and others in order to improve our competitiveness and help to create jobs.
Does the Secretary of State recall telling me last month that Scottish Enterprise had been set up in order to help the recovery of the Scottish economy? Since Scottish Enterprise is to lose jobs and since Scottish Enterprise knows that the effect of the autumn statement will be job losses all over the country, does the Secretary of State accept that he seems to be the only person in Scotland, given all these job losses, who thinks that Scotland is experiencing an economic recovery?
It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman should be so derisive of all the efforts of Scottish Enterprise and all the local enterprise companies in Scotland. Business men, with many preoccupations of their own, are lending their time and effort to help to generate employment and to improve the economic infrastructure and the environment. That is creating a climate in Scotland in which our unemployment figures are standing up so much better than they are elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman anticipates the future budget for Scottish Enterprise, but perhaps he ought to wait until it is allocated.