We have taken a range of measures because job creation and employment are at the forefront of our policy programme. I point in particular to the 300,000 training opportunities that we have provided since May 2007, including next year’s record 25,000 modern apprenticeships. The range of employment provisions, that level of training and that level of modern apprenticeships will fit the country well for the future.
According to Scottish Enterprise, between May 2005 and May 2007, 1,733 jobs were lost in North Ayrshire through 28 major redundancies. During that time, Cunninghame North was represented in the Parliament by the Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Allan Wilson, and Labour controlled North Ayrshire Council, held power here in Holyrood and was in government at Westminster. So many livelihoods were lost before the recession—which was caused by Labour’s chronic mismanagement of the world’s largest financial centre, the City of London—even began. [Interruption.]
Does the First Minister agree that that litany of Labour economic incompetence shows that Scotland’s economy is not safe in the Labour Party’s hands and that it is vital to secure the re-election of a Scottish National Party Government that is committed to investing in skills, infrastructure and our small businesses to tackle the scourge of unemployment?
Yes, I agree with that. [Laughter.] We should all welcome eight months of rising employment in Scotland, as we should welcome the considerable number of positive and major jobs announcements.
As the Parliament and our society look to the future, we should be able to demonstrate, from the position that Scotland now has in some of the cutting-edge technologies that will generate the 21st century’s energy future, that the nation is well placed across a range of those activities. I hope the Parliament will increasingly unite behind getting the financial and economic powers that will allow us, as a lucky country with huge natural resources and a talented people, to maximise that great opportunity.
The First Minister recognises the need for job creation in Ayrshire. Nowhere is that more important than at Prestwick airport in my constituency. Does he agree that, in light of its recent strategic use for Royal Air Force purposes, its role in keeping Scotland’s commercial airspace open over the past two winters and the jobs that it supports directly and indirectly, the airport’s strategic importance needs to be recognised at a Scottish Government level and a United Kingdom Government level?
John Scott knows my interest in Prestwick airport and that I visited recently. Vital though the airport is, we should think of it not only as an airport but as part of an aerospace hub. I know that he particularly welcomed the major £8 million investment by Ryanair, which makes Prestwick its engineering hub for the whole of Europe. Investments such as that will secure the future of Prestwick and Ayrshire.
Three of the jobs that have been created in the past four years have been the highest paid in the public sector. I refer to three top bosses of Government bodies, who are under contracts that were signed by the First Minister’s ministers, with terms and conditions that his ministers set. Does he believe that a combined salary of £600,000 plus bonuses is the fair amount or is there a case to reduce the pay of the top paid in the public sector?