LETTER: Youth unemployment is a blight

I fully support MP Russell Brown’s call for the UK government to set up a task force to deal with rapidly rising unemployment rates in Dumfries and Galloway (Galloway Gazette, February 24).

The UK government is to blame for unemployment, so has an obligation to address the devastating consequences of its policies. Its austerity drive is harming growth – though we should remember that Labour’s Ed Miliband recently announced he would follow a similar policy to the Conservative-led coalition and the former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling promised deeper cuts than those delivered by Margaret Thatcher.

We need the powers over tax and economic policy transferred to Scotland immediately so that the people who live here can do what’s right for Scotland – not just lobby London in the hope that the Con/LibDem coalition will change track, or even decide to grant us a task force. The Scottish government is making full use of the powers at its disposal to deal with this destruction coming from London. It is committed to providing 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year and has recently appointed a dedicated Minister for Youth Employment to address this issue directly. In addition, the government’s newly created Scottish Futures Fund will focus on investment in creating and protecting jobs.

Mr Brown rightly points out that small businesses are critical to the region’s economic recovery. So it is extremely encouraging to see that 57 per cent of Scotland’s smaller companies are benefiting from the Scottish government’s policy of encouraging enterprise through reduced or zero business rates – something his own party, Labour, has opposed in the past.

Of course, with independence, Scotland would have all the powers necessary to shape its economy in its own interests, benefit from our country’s considerable resources and to give full priority to the blight of unemployment and the issue of economic recovery in Dumfries and Galloway and elsewhere.

Joan McAlpine,

SNP MSP for the South of Scotland,

The Scottish Parliament.