Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

The principles that Richard Leonard outlines are principles that we seek to apply across all our interventions on skills and youth employment—not just a potential jobs guarantee but our interventions through colleges and universities. That is important to us; it always has been, and it always will be.

I share some of the concerns that Richard Leonard has expressed about the chancellor’s announcement yesterday. Hopefully, the announcement can play a part in a more comprehensive jobs guarantee scheme, which is why we are now doing work to respond. On the point of urgency, we will respond to Benny Higgins’s report, which includes a recommendation of a jobs guarantee, before the end of this month, but when it comes to the implementation work, we want the jobs guarantee to be more comprehensive than what was outlined yesterday.

There is one point that I am not sure about—I have perhaps misunderstood what Richard Leonard said. Of course, we do not want unemployment to rise for any section of the population but, on the point about age that Richard Leonard made, it is important to have a particular focus on younger people, because the challenge of youth unemployment is likely to be even greater than unemployment generally. As I am sure is the case for Richard Leonard, I remember only too well from the time of my youth the scarring effect of youth unemployment, and we must do everything that we can to avoid that, so I am not sure that I agree with his criticism regarding the age of 24.

Again, while scrutiny and parliamentary debate have an important role to play, I hope that there will be lots more that unites me and Richard Leonard and his colleagues on such issues than ever divides us. We are on the same side here. We might have slightly different views sometimes on how we go about it, but we all want to ensure that the present generation of young people do not pay the long-term price for a crisis that is not of their making.