The impact on the economy has been immense. For many businesses, it has been a fight for survival as they struggled with the strict – but necessary – measures required to save lives. The UK government is only too aware of just how difficult the 15 months or so have been for families and businesses across the country.
Our jobs plan will build on the unprecedented support given to Scotland during the pandemic. This is part of the largest package of emergency support in post-war history. Scotland’s place in a strong United Kingdom has meant £14.5 billion of additional funding flowing north of the Border via Barnett consequentials – on top of the block grant.
The UK government’s furlough scheme, which at its peak supported nearly one million Scottish jobs, will run until the end of September. More than 100,000 Scottish businesses have benefited from £4bn of UK government loans and hospitality businesses have taken advantage of our cuts to VAT as well as deferral of the levy. And firms have been able to apply for statutory sick pay relief.
At last, however, the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to shine a little brighter, with the prospect of loosening restrictions.
As more and more people across the UK get vaccinated against the virus, the UK government is determined that our Plan for Jobs will enable the country to build back better by ensuring a recovery with our sole focus on creating jobs.
To mark the anniversary of the plan, I will visit Russell Roof Tiles in Lochmaben, in Dumfries and Galloway today to find out how the roof-tile manufacturer has coped during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus, the firm is launching a recruitment drive based on strong growth predictions and its ability to resume manufacturing in a Covid-compliant manner.
It’s great that Russell Roof Tiles has such optimism, but we know that many other businesses have struggled through no fault of their own.
Revitalising businesses is the key to creating the good and rewarding jobs to enable people to provide for their families. It is those jobs which are the lifeblood of our society.
Therefore, we pledge to continue to support Scottish jobs throughout the recovery, as we continue our journey towards transforming the UK into a high-growth, high-skill, high-wage, innovation-led economy.
It is widely accepted that the furlough scheme cannot and should not last forever. And indeed, it is unsustainable to try and build an economy which is over-reliant on state-handouts. But we recognise that the tap cannot be suddenly switched off. That’s why furlough will come to an end in a tapered fashion, giving businesses time to adapt to the change.
Central to our Plan for Jobs will be ensuring that there are other packages of support in place to help firms across the UK to re-establish themselves in the coming months and years.
For example, our Jets (Job Entry Targeted Support) scheme which was launched earlier this year is helping thousands of Scots who lost their jobs during the pandemic by giving them access to the tailored, flexible support needed to get back into work.
And more than 6,000 people in Scotland have seized the chance to retrain and improve their skills through another UK government scheme, Swap (Sector-based Work Academy Programme) which will help individuals start new careers in growth areas of the economy.
High-value jobs based on the latest scientific research, the green revolution and spin-out businesses are being created through the £1.5bn invested by the UK government into Scottish city and region deals.
Rishi Sunak’s £2bn Kickstart scheme is helping young people into work across the country by giving youngsters on Universal Credit six-month work places with their wages met by the UK government.
In addition, job creation will be at the heart of the UK’s £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, which will help regenerate communities across the United Kingdom, as well as our new Shared Prosperity Fund which will replace EU cash.
The UK-wide approach to jobs underlines the strength of the Union and the benefits of working together and pooling resources when faced with the enormous health and financial challenges posed by the pandemic.
The success of this pan-UK way of working was perfectly demonstrated by the success of the vaccination programme, which has been the key to unlocking our economy and getting people back to work.
The UK government’s swift action to secure access to more than 500 million vaccine doses for distribution across the country has been a remarkable success story.
Hundreds of British military personnel helped with logistics, planning, testing and vaccine operations across Scotland.
The substantial military footprint in Scotland has also had a positive impact in terms of jobs. Today there is further evidence of that with the announcement that more than 100 new jobs are to be created at RAF Lossiemouth.
The jobs are as a result of the Ministry of Defence signing a long-term support contract for the RAF’s Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft fleet at the Moray base with Boeing Defence UK.
The contract is yet another example of the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom, with around 14,000 military personnel based in Scotland plus a further 4,000 civilian staff.
Throughout the pandemic we have worked together across the UK to save lives and protect livelihoods. It has been an arduous journey, but an end is now in sight.
By building on that UK-wide approach through our Plan for Jobs, we will continue to tap into that spirit of co-operation and build a long and lasting recovery based on a fair, sustainable and prosperous future.
Alister Jack is Conservative MP for for Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Secretary