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£33m Scottish Government response as unemployment rises to 113,000

By Scott Maclennan

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Nicola Sturgeon said there was now an economic emergency.
Nicola Sturgeon said there was now an economic emergency.

The Scottish Government will invest £33 million to help get people back to work after the country’s unemployment rate rose by 13,000.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the job situation was likely to be worse as the numbers only run until the end of March and do not include most of the period of the Covid-19 crisis.

The numbers, she said, underline the importance of getting the economy up and running again as soon as it can “safely” be done.

Ms Sturgeon admitted that the measures designed to keep people safe during the pandemic were the cause of what is now an economic emergency.

She said: “The latest employment figures in Scotland for the period January to March of this year – the first figures that include any period of the Covid-19 crisis – [show that] 113,000 people in Scotland are now unemployed.

“That is up from just under 100,000 in the previous three months. That is an unemployment rate of 4.1 per cent. By historical standards that actually is still a relatively low rate, but of course it is important to stress the figures, since they only extend up to the end of March, do not reflect the full economic impact of the pandemic.

“They undoubtedly further demonstrate the need to carefully get our economy moving again as quickly as we are able to do that safely and they underline the continuing need for government action to support the economy and to help people keep their jobs or to enter or re-enter the workforce.

“We know that the public health measures that we've had to take to deal with what is a public health emergency are in themselves creating an economic emergency and that will have impact on jobs, living standards and inequalities.

“Although the job retention scheme has offered some relief to many employers and employees, I am very aware that many people will be deeply concerned about the future of their livelihoods.

“That's why we've already allocated more than £2.3 billion to support businesses and protect livelihoods and it is, of course, why we have welcomed so warmly many of the measures taken by the UK Government, including the job retention scheme.

“Skills Development Scotland has expanded its support for people seeking training or employment by establishing a phone line and online service.

“Today we are taking further action to tackle the employment challenge created by Covid-19. Our enterprise and skills strategic board, which was established two-and-a-half years ago, will now co-ordinate rapid action across the enterprise and skills agencies.

“In doing so, it will ensure our actions now are helping to equip people with the skills they need for the future. It will report back to us in June on what additional measures we need to take.

“However, I can confirm today we will be investing a further £33 million to support people get back to work as we gradually get the economy opened up again. Most of this will be allocated to Fair Start Scotland, which is our devolved employability service, to help those most adversely affected in times of economic hardship.”

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