Nicola Sturgeon unveils ‘national mission’ to save Scottish jobs

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans for a new “national mission” to deliver jobs and rescue the country’s battered economy from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The First Minister will set out her Programme for Government, covering the year ahead, at Holyrood this afternoon, amid growing opposition calls for a greater focus on economic recovery.

The country is now facing one of the most acute recessions in generations with gross domestic product (GDP) having shrunk by a fifth according to the most recent figures and unemployment on the rise. The Programme for Government, which will be unveiled to MSPs this afternoon, will include investment in plans for a youth guarantee for unemployed young people, as well as a programme to help people retrain for new areas for the economy, such as low carbon industries. There will also be specific investment announced in green jobs and skills.

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Speaking ahead of the statement, Ms Sturgeon said that when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Scottish Government had “acted decisively” to save lives and protect people’s jobs.

Shoppers wearing face masks in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

The First Minister added: “Suppressing the virus is the single most important thing that we, as a nation, can do to allow our economy to continue to open up safely and that has to be our immediate priority.

“Looking ahead, I am determined that we take the necessary steps to rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and more sustainable.

“That is why we are making it our national mission to create new, green jobs across Scotland with fair pay and good conditions.”

The Programme for Government will set out the various bills which the government intends to introduce and push through at Holyrood this year.

Ms Sturgeon continued: “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.

“We have already announced £100 million investment in employment and skills as part of our wider economic recovery package and this Programme for Government will set out our next steps on this journey.”

The Greens have called for their five-point housing plan to kickstart a green recovery to be adopted ahead of Ms Sturgeon’s statement later today.

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This comprises action to end homelessness and tackle “out of control” rents, as well as moves to ensure no-one is evicted as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. The party would also introduce a licensing scheme for short term lets and rollout a programme of energy efficiency improvements to reduce power bills and tackle the climate crisis.

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “At the height of the pandemic the considerable efforts of local councils and housing charities led to the virtual ending of homelessness. As lockdown is eased we have sadly seen some of this tremendous work unravel. We know that homelessness is not inevitable, so it’s essential that the Scottish Government uses every measure at its disposal to bring an end to homelessness in Scotland once and for all.

“The SNP claims to support the introduction of rent controls, but there has been a complete failure from the Scottish Government to address the issue of soaring rents throughout their time in government.

“The pandemic has shone a light of the sheer number of people struggling to pay their rent, yet the Scottish Government refused to support Scottish Greens calls for a rent freeze. The First Minister must revisit this issue and announce a fair rents bill when she delivers her programme for government,”

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