I will be brief. I thank Johann Lamont for lodging the motion. I identify myself with her comments on the failure of the private sector to invest in our young people.
Economic boom and bust traditionally manifests itself first in the construction industry. The period of bust that occurred a few years ago saw construction firms reducing or dispensing with not only apprenticeships, but time-served tradesmen.
There has been an absence of a proper
In Scotland, few national construction companies have apprenticeship policies and, left to their own devices, they would have no intention of introducing them. Management agents are now involved in most major new construction projects, including, I understand, the Parliament building. I have asked the Presiding Officer how many apprentices are employed or are likely to be employed on that project. I will be interested to hear the answer, because there would normally be few, if any, on projects on which management agents are being used.
Another vestige of the boom-and-bust period is the 714 certification that Robert Brown referred to. Many tradesmen of my acquaintance have to pay 26 per cent or more of their earnings, which is deducted at source, to pay their backlog of unpaid tax. Their situation is critical and demands Government intervention, or our ability to compete worldwide for major construction projects will diminish. Opportunities for productive and rewarding employment for a generation of young people will diminish as a consequence of that. I am concerned about that and I know that it concerns Johann Lamont and everybody else here.
I am also concerned about the disparity between the amounts spent by local enterprise companies on 18-plus apprenticeship training, which David Davidson referred to. I support the call in the motion that the Executive do everything in its power to address that.