When the unemployment figures came out when Labour were in power, it used to really annoy me to hear Gordon Brown gloating that the number of people out of work was falling across the UK when it was going up in Scotland. You never really heard Jim Murphy talk about the human cost of losing your job. Mike Moore, on the other hand, puts people at the heart of his comments. Yesterday's unemployment figures for Scotland showed a 5000 increase in 3 months. That's around half a football stadium of families and households in crisis.
"The Scottish unemployment figures are a stark reminder we cannot allow any let up in our efforts to get the economy back to full health and people back into work as soon as possible. Each of these numbers represents an individual or a family directly affected by the economic downturn and the UK Government is doing all it can to create growth and reverse this trend.
"The urgency of protecting the UK economy has never been clearer as we witness events in the Eurozone. It is essential that we keep working towards securing strong and sustainable growth for the long term.
"Youth unemployment is a specific concern and I will meet labour market and employment and skills experts next week to look at the issue in depth. That will help shape the objectives of Scotland's first national youth convention I have organised for March next year, which follows on from a series of seminars across Scotland. These have brought together Council leaders, employers, UK and Scottish Government agencies and local providers to work harder and better for the benefit of jobless young Scots. "
My heart absolutely breaks for young people who aren't able to find a job. We saw a generation put on the scrap heap in the 80s and it just can't happen again. The presence of Liberal Democrats in the Government should help to ensure that there are opportunities for young people. Mike Moore announced yesterday a scheme to give young people an extra 4 weeks' work placement, giving 12 weeks in total, so long as it leads to an apprenticeship. With the Scottish Government saying it'll provide an extra 25000 apprenticeships, this could be an example of much needed grown up working together on the part of Holyrood and Westminster.
What's stopping me shouting about this from the rooftops is this report in yesterday's Guardian in which young people complain about the hours and conditions in which they are being made to work. The potential for unscrupulous employers to exploit these young people. Why take on any employees when you get a steady stream of work experience people for free? What I will say is that the way this works in Scotland seems to be different in that an apprenticeship must be forthcoming at the end of the 12 weeks - but does this mean that young people can still be put on work experience placement for 8 weeks with nothing at the end of it.
I know that experience in the workplace is quite important to get a job in the first place, but I just feel that there isn't much incentive in this to employers to take on permanent workers. Before I make my mind up on this, I'd like to get some feedback from young people who have been through this programme. My instinct is that without the apprenticeship at the end it does more harm than good.
The conclusion to draw is that by involving apprenticeships, Vince and Mike have made this a lot better. Mike has also been doing lots to specifically tackle youth unemployment. I can't imagine for a minute David Mundell as Secretary of State in a majority Tory Government doing the same.
There is a bit more that the Scottish Government can be doing, though. Because the Coalition is putting money into the FE sector in England, John Swinney's coffers are swelled by an extra £67 million in consequentials. Under the Barnett Formula, whenever new money is invested in England and Wales, we get a proportionate sum but it's up to the devolved government how to spend it.
Willie Rennie wants the SNP Government to put £40 million into Scotland's colleges to restore the 8560 places being cut due to the current funding crisis. If young people can't get jobs, surely we should be investing in college places to make sure that we have the skills to take advantage of the opportunities available. Green technology for example, is part of the way out of economic gloom for Scotland. If we are going to be the renewables powerhouse of the world then we need to have skilled people to operate, for example, windfarms. That's why Tavish Scott last year had a real go a the First Minister last year for not saving a course for wind turbine technicians at Carnegie College.
Liberal Democrats banging on about College courses is nothing new - in the last Parliament this was our budget priority every year and we usually managed to get the Government to do more on student bursaries or college places or both. This year, though, with this extra money, there's a chance to make a real difference to to 8560 young people. If you'd like to support Willie's campaign, do so here where you'll also find details of cuts to places in your area.