Business Support

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd December 2020.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

If people think that they understand the scale of the jobs crisis, they need to multiply it significantly. We are witnessing the beginning of a jobs collapse in what we saw yesterday with the Arcadia group and Debenhams. It is really sad. It flows from the pandemic, but also from the decisions that the Government has made about lockdown restrictions. In listening to Kate Forbes earlier, I did not hear her acknowledge that for many people the situation will kill their businesses—many of those businesses will not be there after the restrictions end.

As Richard Leonard said, the support available for some of those businesses is totally inadequate; if it had been adequate, they would have had a chance of survival. We have locked down retail and hospitality at a time of year when their sales would have seen them through January. Meanwhile, their online competitors are largely unaffected. We need to understand that, because of the restrictions, thousands of businesses will lose out and thousands of jobs will be lost. Therefore, we need a jobs programme like no other, state intervention on a scale that we have never seen before and worker protections and support for businesses such as we have never seen before.

We need conditionality on a living wage on all jobs related to the public sector, but we also need to seek to protect workers in the private sector who do not have the protection of a trade union. There are deep inequalities in who is being supported through the pandemic in the job retention scheme. How many young people in the hospitality sector were dismissed without any protections, who were not in a union and have no security for their future? Many people were not furloughed and tens of thousands of self-employed workers did not qualify for the scheme.

There are far too many gaps and there needs to be an understanding that many people were left with absolutely nothing. I would like to know whether an audit has been done of the fallout from that and whether the Government thinks its plans are the right ones. We need an end to zero-hours contracts, but we also need a proper policy to end evictions so that people who are struggling with their job can have a home and some security until they can get back on their feet.

I want to talk about the young persons guarantee scheme. Every young person has apparently been offered an opportunity in education, jobs or training.

I do not understand why the Government is simply saying that it will help 10,000 people who are over the age of 25. That is not ambitious enough, which tells me that the Government does not understand the scale of the problem.

I welcome the new directorate that has been set up to run the scheme, but I ask the Government for a detailed report. We do not need government-speak about agencies and money—we need to see that the scheme is having an impact on the ground. I do not know any young person, in my family or my community, who has been contacted or knows which website to go on.

We are now nine months down the line, and I do not know anybody who knows what to do if they do not have a job. I am sorry, but that is absolutely not good enough.