Linda Fabiani MSP for East Kilbride has expressed her disappointment at the lack of action coming from Westminster to stimulate the economy, delivering jobs and growth.
“The Chancellor’s budget has failed to respond to the UK’s economic problems and continues to condemn the UK to a lost decade of no growth to match their decade of failed austerity. This budget had the chance to provide a real opportunity for the UK Government to support economic growth, protect jobs and in turn rebuild public finances instead we have more Westminster cuts and pain.
“On the same day, in Scotland we received confirmation from the Office of National Statistics that unemployment has fallen by 4,000 in the last 3 months. The headline unemployment rate in Scotland now stands at 7.4 per cent, lower than the UK rate of 7.8 per cent. This is the fourth monthly release in a row that shows unemployment in Scotland falling and Scotland’s unemployment rate is now at its lowest in over three years. The youth unemployment rate also fell to 17.0 per cent in Scotland compared to 20.6 per cent in the UK. The rate in Scotland has fallen by 7.7 percentage points over the year – the largest decrease since 1992. The youth employment rate now stands at 56.1 per cent, 5.3 percentage points higher than the rate across the UK.
“Whilst this is good news, there is still much more that could be done to tackle unemployment but it requires Westminster to do so much more than the limp budget delivered by the Chancellor today.
“With the powers currently available to the Scottish Parliament, we will continue to deliver the targeted action on youth unemployment that is proving to be successful. Investment in apprenticeships, full time college courses and Opportunities for All has contributed to youth unemployment falling at the fastest rate in over 20 years. The Scottish Government will soon make available £25 million of Scottish Government and EU funding for recruitment incentives to encourage small and medium sized employers across Scotland to take on unemployed 16-24 year olds and key initiatives like Community Jobs Scotland are improving the employability of thousands of young people.
“The Scottish Government are continuing the programme of capital investment to boost the economy and jobs while maintaining the most competitive business environment in the UK. The Chancellor has cut the Scottish budget and replaced it with loans which essentially put a straitjacket on the public finances of Scotland, restricting our room for manoeuvre and restricting the hard cash we can spend. Looking at the improvements Scotland has made with its current limited powers, I know we could achieve so much more armed with the full economic and fiscal powers of a normal independent nation.
“We also had a PCS strike over pensions on Wednesday, which I fully support. The recent Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report for 2011/12 shows that Scotland is financially stronger than the UK as a whole to the tune of £4.4 billion, or £824 per person. In 2011/12, Scotland generated 9.9 per cent of UK tax revenues with 8.4 per cent of the population – in return for 9.3 per cent of spending. There is no need to attack Scottish pensions in the way the Westminster Government insists.
“Further evidence of Westminster’s failings can be found in the Workfare vote. While the SNP MPs at Westminster voted against the Tory proposals which would see workers denied the minimum wage, Labour MPs, including Michael McCann, abstained. Labour have found themselves in a shambles over this vote. They have sold out on their founding principles of protecting workers’ rights ensuring the Tory Government no longer have to pay £130m in benefit rebates to about a quarter of a million jobseekers.
“Westminster cannot be trusted with Scotland’s money, jobs, pensions and now workers’ rights.
“With the powers of independence we would have the economic levers and the scope to do even more with Scotland’s interests making sure that we no longer have to fund the failures of a UK Government. People in Scotland have a choice with a Yes vote in 2014. Instead of having to wait for the end of UK austerity the people of Scotland can choose to bring home the powers needed to take our own decisions to grow the economy, invest in public services and support, rather than attack, vulnerable Scots.”