I am aware of the success of places such as Falkirk in building broad-based employability partnerships with a combined focus on the needs of adults and young people. It is clear that the approach is working because, despite the difficult economic conditions, the number of people employed in Falkirk rose by 400 over the year to June 2010. In fact, at 72.5 per cent, the employment rate for Falkirk is now higher than the Scottish average, which itself is higher than the United Kingdom rate.
The Government really wants to build on that kind of progress. As we announced in December, Falkirk Council will receive more than £425,000 of European social fund money for an employability and regeneration project that will run over two years. In this year’s budget, we further committed to provide no fewer than 46,500 training places across the whole of Scotland. We also announced a £10 million package of support for small businesses that recruit the long-term unemployed and a further £10 million for a community jobs fund to offer young people work opportunities in the third sector.
The minister will be aware that HEROtsc, which is based in Larbert in my constituency, has benefited greatly from support from the Scottish Government, creating some 200 new jobs. The same is true for Malcolm Allan Ltd, which is one of the country’s leading food manufacturers. In addition, Alexander Dennis Ltd has benefited greatly from the Scottish Government’s green bus fund and secured 46 of the 50 buses that will be manufactured through that scheme. Given the progress that has been made in the area, what further measures does the Scottish Government intend to take to continue to promote employment in Falkirk?
I recognise the scenario that the member has painted. Alexander Dennis, Malcolm Allan and HEROtsc have all displayed resilience and perseverance, have invested in and developed new products and services, and have sought out markets and won new contracts. The Scottish Government is doing more: four offers of regional selective assistance in the Falkirk area have been accepted, amounting to grant support of more than £1.1 million, which is helping to secure 114 additional jobs in the area. In addition, other companies in the area, such as Caledonian Produce, are pressing ahead with plans for 450 new permanent jobs.