It is very encouraging news that employment has increased to near-record highs of more than 2.5 million and that unemployment has fallen to 6.4%, which is the lowest rate in more than four and a half years. Those figures reflect how well Scotland is doing as part of the UK and demonstrate that the Government’s long-term economic plan is working.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that positive response, which shows how well Scotland is doing as part of the Union. Does he agree that the biggest threat to Scottish jobs is the fantasy-land promise of the SNP and its attempt to remove Scotland from the Union and the UK labour market?
That is indeed the case. When we talk about business people having concerns, we are talking about a threat not just to business, but to jobs. The UK is now the fastest-growing economy in the G7, and unemployment in Scotland is at 6.4%, which is significantly lower than the average across the UK, which is 7.1%. We have achieved that because we are part of the UK, not despite it. It is a result of Scotland, with her own Parliament, being represented here and having the best of both worlds.
There remains a great deal to do. I suspect I share many of the hon. Lady’s concerns about the continuing high level of youth unemployment and the number of people who have been unemployed for a longer period. I see encouraging signs of progress in these areas, but they are by no means to be taken for granted. There are tremendous opportunities for the two Governments in Scotland, along with councils in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and elsewhere, to work together to get the best possible arrangements for the unemployed.
When the Secretary of State visits the highlands and addresses a Burns supper in Inverness on Friday night, I am sure he will hear a lot from those present about one of the most exciting job prospects for the highlands and for Scotland as a whole, which is the potential of the Kishorn site in my constituency for offshore wind development. May I encourage him and his colleagues to continue to work with Edinburgh to promote the interests of this exciting project? I wanted to get my plug in now because, due to a previous long-standing engagement, I will not be there on Friday night myself.
I shall, in fact, be carrying out other engagements, although I understand that tickets for that Burns supper are still available and are very reasonably priced. In relation to Kishorn, my right hon. Friend raises an important local concern for his constituents, as he has a long and proud record of doing. I certainly look forward to hearing the detail about that. We are seeing such developments growing across the United Kingdom, particularly in Scotland, and it is because our plan has worked.
The Secretary of State may think that everything is rosy, but is it not a fact that we are seeing the most sustained fall in real wages since records began 50 years ago? Is it not also a fact that the jobs market is not working for ordinary Scots and that both Governments are failing the people we represent?
I wish the hon. Lady and her colleagues could find it within themselves to recognise the substantial progress we are making with the improving employment situation in Scotland. There is significant progress, which makes a real difference for her constituents and mine. Wage levels will doubtless need some improvement to catch up; that is an inevitable consequence of the steps we had to take to clear up the mess that she made.