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Youth Employment (Labour Force Survey Data)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th November 2019.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will retract its statements on youth employment, in light of the United Kingdom Statistics Authority’s recent comments on its use of the labour force survey. (S5O-03833)

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

No. The Scottish Government’s statements on youth unemployment are based on official statistics that are routinely published by the Office for National Statistics, which means that they are the latest available official estimate of youth unemployment in Scotland.

Both the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments regularly refer to results from the ONS labour force survey, as it is the most frequently available source of labour market data. Scottish Government statisticians will continue to work with the ONS to discuss its handling of future publications on youth unemployment statistics and the use of the labour force survey. It is crucial that decisions on the use of statistics are taken by professional statisticians. Therefore, it is a decision for Scotland’s chief statistician, who will reflect on the comments that have been made.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

As the minister well knows, no one is criticising the national statistics—they are not the issue. The issue is that the Scottish Government selectively cherry picked a misleading number that was based on a sample size that was far too low to be reliable.

A number of journalists have said that. The Fraser of Allander institute has said that. The Statistics Authority has said that. Is the Scottish National Party Government so arrogant that it cannot even hold up its hands and admit that it made a mistake?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

I go back to the point that I just made—what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Those are not statistics that we alone use; the UK Government comments on them on a monthly basis, and they are utilised by not only the Scottish Government and the UK Government.

If Mr Kerr does not want the Scottish Government to utilise those statistics, I look forward to the same standard being upheld by his party, which routinely uses labour force statistics selectively as well, to do down the labour market. I have seen Murdo Fraser, Alister Jack and David Mundell do that frequently. If Mr Kerr does not want us to use the statistics, I hope that, in future, he will not use them either.