[un-allotted half day] — Unemployment

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

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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 will not at the moment, thanks. Time is pressing.

In Scotland we are experiencing 32% real-terms cuts to the capital budgets and even after the announcements in the autumn statement, the Scottish capital budget will still be cut by £3 billion over the spending period. More importantly, 70% of the new consequentials announced in the autumn statement will not be available until the year after next. Waiting until 2013 will not deal with the problem that we need to tackle now. What we need is investment in infrastructure.

Much has already been said today about youth unemployment. For those of us who came of age in the 1980s there is a horrible sense of déjà vu. I was one of those who had to put up with the 1980s and see the problems at first hand. When I hear young people in my constituency bemoaning to me the prospects that they are now facing, I have great empathy. It was exactly the same in the 1980s, when we were all told that unemployment was a price worth paying, and a whole generation was relegated to the scrapheap. We are still living with the legacy of that and dealing with the social consequences of it. It was not just about economics. It was about our society and the prospects of a whole generation.

Across the UK we have seen diverse approaches to tackling youth unemployment. It is far too high everywhere, but, as we have heard today, there has been a range of approaches in the devolved Administrations. In Scotland there have been 25,000 apprenticeships, a significantly higher number than before. It even exceeds what the UK Government are doing. University and college places have been maintained. Efforts have been made to ensure that apprenticeships that fall through because companies have gone under as a result of the recession are continuing and those young people are getting back into work. The Opportunities for All initiative is making sure that every young person aged 16 to 19 will get a work or training opportunity.

I hope Ministers will take the opportunity to sit down with Finance Ministers across the devolved Administrations and look specifically at how we can tackle youth unemployment. There are different approaches and there are good ideas coming from different parts of the UK. It is such an urgent problem and such a challenge with such serious long-term consequences that I hope the Minister will take action. We were told in the 1980s that unemployment was a price worth paying. It was not a price worth paying. It is never a price worth paying. It must be the Government’s top priority.