[un-allotted half day] — Unemployment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 14th December 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Fisheries) 4:17 pm, 14th December 2011

I am certainly happy to look at that because the sharp increase in unemployment in Scotland is very concerning. However, over the past year as a whole, unemployment in Scotland has fallen and employment has risen. That compares very favourably with the record of her Administration. For most of the past few years, employment in Scotland has outperformed employment in the rest of the UK. That record contrasts sharply with the situation when Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in coalition in Scotland.

We have to look at the big picture and remember that when the Government set us down the path of austerity a year and a half ago, many of us warned that taking the feet out from under the public sector was not the way to boost employment and growth in the private sector. We said that the cuts went too far too quickly and it gives me no pleasure whatever to be proved right on that front. It is now abundantly clear that the medicine is not working and is not achieving the results we want. I accept that the Government have not been in control of some of the external circumstances, but nevertheless those risks were always apparent. The Government need to acknowledge that their plan is not working and that it is time for a change of direction.

What has been disappointing this afternoon is the very ideological and doctrinaire approach taken by Members on the Government Benches to their prescriptions. It would be helpful if we acknowledged the interdependence of the public and the private sectors. The bottom line is that the UK as a whole is losing public sector jobs faster than the private sector can create them. We all know that borrowing is still very difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises, which is a major source of potential growth. We know that business confidence is low, but in that circumstance it makes no sense at all to punish the public sector when the private sector just cannot keep up.

Paradoxically, that is the opposite of what has been happening in Scotland. One of the interesting things—