Writing in the Stirling Observer, Bruce Crawford MSP said:
‘I’ve written before about how we need to use the lessons of this pandemic to build a better, more resilient society for the future. This has to have protecting and creating jobs, jobs, jobs at its heart. I come back to this now, with the UK in a confirmed economic recession, and with economic experts warning of challenging times ahead for our economy.
‘Alyn Smith MP wrote in his Stirling Observer column last week about some of the measures that the UK government have undertaken which are welcome, but haven’t yet gone far enough. I share in that opinion. As the Convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee at Holyrood I’m all too aware of the financial restrictions that apply on the devolved governments, and that borrowing to support business can only come from the Treasury in the circumstances we currently face.
‘Nevertheless, over the past few weeks, the Scottish Government has used the powers and abilities it does have has to introduce a range of new measures to support the economy, and help protect and create as many jobs as possible.
‘This includes a targeted £10 million investment in modern apprenticeship places, which will help train up a new generation of skilled workers, which will be crucial to post-Covid-19 recovery. My recent enquiry to the Scottish Government found that the number of modern apprenticeship places in the Stirling area has steadily risen from 411 in 2015 to 436 last year. This is a hugely important positive destination for school leavers, and this £10 million investment will make a significant difference in providing opportunities to young people.
‘The Scottish Government is also doubling funding for digital and workforce training in this financial year. That means £20 million going to the Flexible Workforce Development Fund to help employers up-skill and re-skill their workforce.
‘On top of this, there will be additional targeted support for jobs through a Covid-19 Transition Training Fund, supporting those who are unemployed facing redundancy. Included is the confirmation of at least £50 million for young people, including the Scottish Job Guarantee – assistance and advice for unemployed young people.
‘Other actions that the Scottish Government is taking to support business includes making it easier for smaller businesses to compete for public contracts, and supporting them to make greater use of digital technology. With online technology being a key theme of this pandemic, it’s more vital than it ever was to get businesses operating with different forms of technology.
‘How licences are granted is being assessed too, as it is clear that there are areas where businesses are slowed down by having to make lengthy applications. Options are being explored in the planning process, to try to make it easier for applications to be processed, supporting growth across a range of industries.
‘I also welcome the announcement of £38 million for high growth companies – supporting businesses which were at an early stage of being established when the Coronavirus pandemic hit. This involves support in the form of grants and advice for start-ups and early stage growth businesses, to promote growth at this crucial period.
‘The Scottish Government’s plan for economic recovery is wide-ranging investment, with long term ambitions for our country’s economy. But we need a commitment from the UK Government that there will be a much more strategic approach to supporting our economy’s comeback.
‘The Stirling area is a vibrant place to do business, with a diverse range of industries employing thousands of people. Whilst I welcome the support committed by the Scottish and UK Governments to date, I join calls in urging the UK Government to either do more or provide greater responsibility to Holyrood to act. If we don’t invest to protect and create jobs, jobs, jobs we will be letting people down. ‘