A growing youth jobs crisis in the Dumfries and Galloway region is being ignored by the Scottish Government, according to a Labour MSP.
Replying to a question from Labour MSP Elaine Murray on Wednesday in the Scottish Parliament, Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment, admitted that although youth job seekers claimants in Dumfries and Galloway were higher than the national average, the government had no region-specific plans in the pipeline to tackle youth unemployment and underemployment here.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the number of young people aged 16-24 claiming benefits in Dumfries and Galloway was 480 (4.4 per cent) in September, higher than the Scottish figure of 4 per cent.
Labour MSP Elaine Murray said: “For the Youth Employment Secretary to be unable to come up with any answers on what her government’s plans are to help young people into work in Dumfries and Galloway is extremely worrying.
“The SNP know that unemployment and underemployment are a problem in rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway, however have no plans in place to tackle the issue.
“Young people are crying out for quality, well-paid jobs in our region and instead are continually being ignored. How much longer will we have to call for investment and action in Dumfries and Galloway before the Scottish Government delivers.”
South of Scotland SNP MSP Aileen McLeod commented: “It is typical of Elaine Murray and the Labour Party that she selectively quotes the answer she was given and chooses to completely ignore the significant increase in youth employment in Dumfries and Galloway which now stands at 63 per cent and is above the national average.
“I’d have hoped that Elaine Murray and her colleagues might have acknowledged that genuine improvement which will be having real benefits for many young people across our region.
“I’d also have hoped that she might join us in pressing for the UK Government to adopt the European Youth Guarantee, which would allow us to do even more for young people. That Elaine Murray chose to do neither speaks volumes about the Labour Party’s priorities.”
Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson added: “The SNP Government has spent the last seven years trying to persuade the Scottish people that Independence would right all the wrongs of the world.
During that time, it has totally failed to use its very significant existing powers to try to address the very real problems that the country faces, and the youth unemployment figures for Dumfries and Galloway are a sad reflection of seven years of SNP Government inactivity in the area of economic regeneration – particularly in rural areas.
“Perhaps, now that the Independence question has been so decisively rejected, the Government can get on with what it was elected to do.”