grim statistics show unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway has reached a 15-year high.
New figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics show long-term unemployment (those out of work for six months or more) in Dumfries and Galloway rose to 1565, its highest since October 1998. The situation for young people is even worse, with 420 18-24-year-olds in Dumfries and Galloway out of work for longer than six months, the highest level since March 1997. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits for more than a year rose to 850, the highest since May 1999.
Reacting to the news, Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “We face soaring long-term unemployment and a double dip recession, but both the UK and Scottish governments refuse to change course.
“Their cuts and tax rises are pushing local families to the brink. Our region is in the midst of a jobs crisis but there is no plan to get our economy growing. How bad do things have to get before they wake up to the dire state of the local economy? Young people are being especially hard hit and this generation is in real danger of being thrown on the scrapheap.”
SNP MSP Aileen McLeod said: “These figures are a grim indictment of the UK Tory Government’s economic policy, which clearly isn’t working for the South of Scotland.
“In contrast, the Scottish Government is investing in modern apprenticeships and youth employment initiatives and continuing to invest in Scotland’s infrastructure, despite massive cuts to the devolved budget.
“With the full economic and financial powers of independence we could do even more to raise Scotland’s competitiveness and drive forward economic recovery. In the meantime the UK Government must deliver substantial capital investment immediately to promote growth and jobs.”
SNP Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes said: “These statistics are simply unacceptable. The coalition Government have been well warned about the devastating effect which their austerity policies would have on unemployment and the general economic situation in the UK as a whole but have chosen not to listen.
“Hopefully even at this late stage it’s still not too late to change tack and pursue policies designed to reflate the economy.
“John Maynard Keynes did after all point us in the right direction almost seven years ago.”
Tory MSP Alex Fergusson said: “These figures are really worrying, but I take no lessons from the Labour Party which left this country in a state of virtual bankruptcy when they were removed from office two years ago. We should not forget that Labour were in power for eight years in both Holyrood and Westminster and delivered absolutely nothing in terms of long term sustainable investment for this region. Their protestations offer no solutions to the dire economic situation that they created – only pointless criticism in an effort to score cheappolitical points. Nor do I believe that we would gain anything by an abrupt change of course by the UK Government in order to spend billions of pounds that we simply do not have.
“The SNP Scottish Government has more money at its disposal that it has ever had before, but still has not served this region well by making cuts in policy areas that have had a major impact in this Region, such as the housing budget, the bus operators grant and the budget for Dumfries and Galloway College.
“Quick fix solutions are not the answer - we all need to work together on this, rather than simply carping from the sidelines. The Council has recently introduced an apprenticeship scheme that is specifically designed to provide skills that we need in this Region, and a small scheme for graduates with a similar aim. That is the kind of positive thinking we need from both the public and private sectors if we are to fight our way through these desperately difficult times.”
A spokesman for Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce said: “The fact that unemployment has reached a 15-year high in D&G should not come as a surprise when we have seen one of our key industries, tourism, continue to decline against growth in other parts of Scotland. There are a range of complex reasons for this but the underlining issue is that we need to do far more to develop effective local initiatives that take into account changing market trends and target the right markets.
“The chamber has worked tirelessly in the background to make Wigtownshire’s case with industry bodies, including Destination D&G and VisitScotland and is working with the industry to try to resolve the woeful promotion of Wigtownshire/West Galloway. We are hoping to meet the tourism minister shortly to discuss these issues and put forward our solutions.
“The Chamber also believes far more needs to be done to broaden our economy locally. While we may never become a centre for manufacturing, there are many other opportunities we are keen to see developed and are again seeking to get these recognised and developed.”