Sturgeon to announce 'national mission to create jobs'

Nicola Sturgeon

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Ms Sturgeon will outline her government’s plans for the year ahead in a speech at Holyrood

Nicola Sturgeon is to put a “national mission to create jobs” at the heart of her plans for the year ahead in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The first minister is to prioritise jobs and training for young people in her annual “programme for government”.

She said she wanted to see Scotland “rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and more sustainable”.

Opposition parties have called for more investment in transport, childcare, housing and support for local firms.

The number of people in work in Scotland has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown, with a sharp rise in those claiming benefits and more than 700,000 staff placed on furlough.

Each September, the Scottish government sets out a legislative programme for the year ahead.

However the coming parliamentary session is set to be dominated by the continuing coronavirus crisis and the build-up to the Holyrood election in May.

The government has already shelved a series of bills which will not be taken forward because of the pandemic, including proposals for a tourist tax and reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

Ahead of her speech, Ms Sturgeon said that that continuing to suppress the virus “has to be our immediate priority”, adding that it was “the single most important thing that we as a nation can do to allow our economy to continue to open up safely”.

However she said that looking ahead, it should be “our national mission” to “create new, green jobs across Scotland with fair pay and good conditions”.

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The number of Scots in work has been hit by the pandemic – although the furlough scheme has supported many

This is set to include a “youth guarantee” to keep young people in work – as suggested by a panel led by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins – a programme to retrain people to work in new sectors such as low-carbon industries, and investment targeting “green jobs”.

The first minister said: “Equipping people with skills for the future to keep them in work or get back into employment will be critical.

“From our young people entering the job market for the first time to older workers who need to retrain, we will make sure that no one is left behind.”

‘Massive’ investment

Opposition leaders will have the chance to question Ms Sturgeon about her plans, before MSPs debate them on Wednesday.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for a “massive” investment in transport infrastructure, including an expansion of the M8 motorway and faster rail links between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.

Leader Douglas Ross also called for “job security councils” to be set up to help laid-off workers find skilled work in specific sectors.

He said: “The SNP have let Scotland down in their failure to handle the Scottish economy and the budget in a reasonable way. I want to see that ended and ensure a vital resources go into securing good jobs.”

Scottish Labour meanwhile want the government to bring forward the Scottish Child Payment – a planned payment to parents which has been delayed until February 2021 – saying that “families need cash now”.

Leader Richard Leonard said: “The Scottish government has said that the pandemic has made the implementation of the payment difficult, but it is the pandemic which has made the payment more urgent and important than ever.”

The Scottish Greens have set out a five-point plan for better housing – including action to end homelessness, cap rents and improve energy efficiency – which they say will “kick start a green recovery”.

And the Scottish Lib Dems have called for a “needle sharp” focus on economic and social recovery, including faster progress on free childcare, better support for local businesses hit by lockdowns, and testing for international students as they arrive in Scotland.

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