Business Start-ups

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 23rd March 2000.

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Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 2:30 pm, 23rd March 2000

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to assist traditionally under-represented groups, such as young people, women and the long-term unemployed, to start their own businesses. (S1O-1426)

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

We are keen to encourage people from all sectors of society to consider self-employment and starting their own business as a viable option. A significant number of initiatives are in place to assist particular groups who are not traditionally seen as entrepreneurs.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour

I thank the minister for that response and for the announcement that he made on International Women's Day of an extra £1.5 million.

Can I draw to the minister's attention the record of the Castlemilk Economic Development Agency in providing support for women, youth and existing businesses? Each year the agency assists on average 25 previously unemployed Castlemilk residents to start up in business, through grant aid and loan funding. It actively encourages women to start up and develop businesses by accessing specialist women's finance and resources and micro-credit schemes.

Does the minister agree that the agency's success illustrates what can be achieved when local organisations are provided with the resources and those resources are targeted effectively?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

Very much so. The project to which Mike Watson refers is excellent and reflects some of the excellent work that has been done in Glasgow generally to tackle unemployment and the key economic issues that the city faces. We are attempting to put in place a wide range of measures that encourage self-employment and help people become more entrepreneurial. The new deal does that with 18 to 24-year-olds. The training for work scheme does the same thing, and we are keen to pursue it in the Glasgow employment zone.

It is absolutely crucial that the same opportunities are offered to every group in our society. For far too long, people from disadvantaged areas and, in particular, women, have not had the same access to the economic opportunities that we take for granted. I want to remove barriers and obstacles, and I hope that the project in Glasgow will serve as a beacon to other parts of Scotland, so that they join in to ensure that we have equality of access and equality of opportunity.

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent

Does the minister agree that also affected are unemployed people who suffer from the scandal of age discrimination, which in Scotland affects tens of thousands of people over the ages of 40 and 50? Because of age apartheid, such people often do not have the chance of getting a job. Sometimes, when trying desperately to start a small business, they are turned down by public bodies. Does the minister have any plans to aid persons of both sexes who are the victims of age discrimination in employment?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

The member's sentiments will be shared by most members of the Parliament. We do not want discrimination to affect any group or gender. That said, the budget highlighted the fact that we want to do more for older people—through the new deal for the long-term unemployed, for example. I can assure Dorothy-Grace Elder that all the policies that the Executive is pursuing are based on equality of opportunity. When it comes to employment and training, people should not be discriminated against on account of their age. I would like to think that the budget proposals and the work that we are doing will allay some of the member's concerns.