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Employment (Scotland)

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 7 December 2006

This year alone, there are 20,000 more people in work in Scotland, and the total increase in employment since 1997 has been 200,000. There are now a record 2.47 million people in work in Scotland.

I welcome those figures. My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Scottish National party—whose representative is, surprisingly, no longer in the Chamber—is fixated by the idea that the rise in the growth rate is the only true indicator of Scotland’s wealth. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the way in which we use that growth to create jobs and improve skills is a key component on which the Scots will judge us? Will he give me his assurance that we will prioritise those groups that have still to enter the job market, and introduce real and practical policies that will give them that opportunity?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Growth in Scotland—like growth in the United Kingdom—has risen faster than in the euro area over the past 10 years, and employment has increased even faster. In her own area of Glasgow, unemployment, which stood at 85,000 at its peak under the Conservative Government, is now 17,000, and long-term and youth unemployment are both down substantially. It is important to point out, given that the SNP is not represented in the Chamber today—even when there is a question on employment in Scotland, its members fail to turn up to debate the issue—that the real future for Scotland is as part of the United Kingdom, where it will benefit from the growth-creating strategies of this Government, the new deal and other employment measures.

What forecasts for employment in Scotland has the Chancellor made for 2007-08? Has he now had a chance to read his own Budget Red Book and to reflect on the point made by the Liberal Democrat shadow Chancellor earlier? Will he confirm that my hon. Friend’s assumption for unemployment, audited for the National Audit Office, is that it will rise slowly to more than 1 million in that period?

Once again, burying himself in the detail, the hon. Gentleman has missed the main point. [Interruption.] The main point—[Interruption.] The main point—if Opposition Members will listen—is that it is not an assumption by the Government at all. It is not an assumption made by the Government, it is not an assumption compiled by the Government, and it is not an assumption used by the Government. It comes from independent forecasters outside Government, and it is nothing to do with a forecast made by the Government.