Scotsman Letters: Many more young people could be in work right now

The big employment news of the week in Tuesday’s ONS release is not the 9 million, about a quarter of working age UK adults, who are economically inactive or unemployed. We knew that already.

It is the 3 million and rising economically inactive under-25s. This group represented about 20 per cent of working age adults a little over 30 years ago, when there was mass unemployment of over 3 million. They now make up about 40 per cent when unemployment is less than 4 per cent of working age adults.

So what has gone wrong? There has been a mental health crisis exacerbated by Covid, there are 2 million estimated long Covid sufferers, there are fewer opportunities for training due to government cuts in vocational education and reduced places in universities for Scottish students. Many people are finding the excessive cost of childcare means it is better to stay at home than take on multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet.

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Even so, it’s difficult not to conclude that many more young people could work. This has become a major political issue, with Labour claiming they would find resources for specialists to work with those affected by mental health, to help them find employment. This is preferable to the current approach of record immigration to fill vacancies when fewer than 20 per cent of immigrants are entering the country for work, while many of their dependents are choosing not to work.

Why is Scotland seeing rising numbers of unemployed young Scots, asks reader? (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Why is Scotland seeing rising numbers of unemployed young Scots, asks reader? (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Why is Scotland seeing rising numbers of unemployed young Scots, asks reader? (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

It all means that millions of young people are contributing little to society and one wonders how that will play out for health and social services in the decades to come. A ticking time bomb is looming.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Park the zealots

Last November, the City of Edinburgh Council formally declared a “housing emergency”, with a crisis in both the public and private sectors. The city now has record homelessness figures, with, in addition, a severe shortage of homes for a social rent and spiralling private renting costs. You might have thought that there would be some urgency about addressing this serious problem.

Yet the council’s funds (aka our funds) continue to be spent on acts of profligacy that defy understanding. Instead of even mending the roads, the council has deposited a series of steel planters in Leith Walk. They are made of Corten steel, which has a rusty appearance and leaks rusty liquid onto the road. They have been in place since October, apparently, without anything yet being planted in them. Presumably their purpose is to reduce the space for parking cars. I could hazard a guess that some have been used as waste bins.

Would not the money – which I doubt was a small amount – have been better spent on addressing the homelessness crisis? Would not all the money spent on the toe-curling embarrassment of the “Spaces for people” project have been better spent on addressing the homelessness crisis?

How do we prevent a future situation where people with an ideological obsession about important matters are put in charge of them?

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Carbon baiting

I certainly agree with Steuart Campbell (Letters, 13 March) that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but to claim that it has no practical value is truly astounding. It is, in fact, the stuff of life.

Below 150ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere, plants would not survive. At the much quoted “pre-industrial level” of 280ppm,would our present world human population survive? A few years ago China restricted its birth rate simply because it could not feed its then population. Genetically modified rice crops, plus a higher level of CO2, in the atmosphere to feed them has allowed that population ban to be lifted.

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We now expect to have a supply of any type of vegetable at any time of year. Much of that supply comes from greenhouses (polytunnels) fed with CO2 up to about double the present atmospheric level. It amuses me to see the “Stop Big Oil” campaigners with their plastic bottles (made from oil) of fizzy (CO2 impregnated) water, the so-called carbon footprint of which is about 1,000 times that of tap water (and even the latter often has a coal-bed purification process).

A McCormick, Terregles, Dumfries

Power paradox

There is a paradox. Contemporary commemorations of the 1984 Miners’ Strike take the side of the strikers. Running resurrected steam locomotives is applauded. But the miners went on strike to stop pit closures, which were an important part of the abandonment by the UK of energy generation by burning coal. And doing the same in a locomotive was outrageously inefficient; 90 per cent of the heat went up the chimney.

My great-grandfather was an engine driver. Once he had Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone in his train. But thanks to the abandonment of coal we have massively reduced our contemporary greenhouse gas emissions to the levels they were in his lifetime, and thanks to wind, natural gas and nuclear we consume, and rely on, energy at levels unsurpassed in human history.

Steuart Campbell's remedy of mirrors in space to cool the earth (Letters,13 March) may eventually come to pass. But one is tempted to bear in mind the HL Mencken quote: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Positive move

In The Scotsman of 13 March, Euan McColm expresses his doubts on the impact on our society of the Hate Crime and Public Order Act which comes into effect next month.

He does not mention that it will bring to an end the vile condemnation of Conservative Party members and its supporters! No more can the SNP leadership say they “Despise all Tories and everything that they represent” or their supporters wave banners shouting “Tory Scum” or call the present Prime Minister of our country a “rat”!This can only be a good thing to quell the divisiveness driven by some Nationalists!

Michael Officer, Bridge of Earn, Perth and Kinross

Energy hope

The 12 March UK government announcement regarding the building of new gas-fired power stations seems to conflict with the taxation levy on North Sea gas producers announced in the 6 March Budget. The reality of the need for energy security to keep the lights on may call for a review of North Sea taxation as substantial development finance is now required to guarantee the production of the additional North Sea gas needed for the coming years.

Simultaneously, the need for future energy storage must be re-examined. This is important not only for the efficient use of gas-fired power stations, it is essential for the economic development of renewable energy such as wind power.

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Presently there is only one new reservoir project UK-wide for pumped storage of energy, at Coire Glas in Scotland, while six or more could well be utilised. Yet it is essential for future energy supplies that a joined-up government planning process is created to achieve essential co-ordination between the energy and water industries. Can we now hope this will happen?

Elizabeth Marshall, Edinburgh

Sword dance

It was interesting to see Jeane Freeman blame the late notice of issues with the Sick Kids’ hospital’s ventilation as a failure of governance, but it prompted me to ask who set the organisational “tone” at the time? Perhaps the failure was not in governance itself but in the blame culture at the organisation she headed?

An organisation where staff seemed to be afraid to reveal the truth in case the messenger got shot, so staff hoped things would simply “blow over”. Safer to keep quiet and hope nobody notices.

It’s yet another example of SNP ministers blaming someone else. I have yet to hear of an SNP or ex-SNP minster falling on their sword because of failings such as these. Mind you, this may simply be due to a shortage of swords!

Brian Barbour, Berwick Upon Tweed, Northumberland

Rude health?

Any reform which will rescue the NHS in Scotland from terminal decline must be welcomed. Scottish Labour's plan for NHS reform obviously will not solve all of the issues afflicting the NHS but it should encourage healthy debate about the measures which need to be put in place to make the healthcare structure fit for the 21st century and beyond.

In response, Scottish Health Secretary Neil Gray trots out the same lame excuse that Westminster is responsible for underfunding the NHS and alludes to the fact that under the SNP, NHS staffing is at a record high and billions are being pumped into the healthcare system. If that is the case, why is it not working? I would also like to be convinced that the extra millions Scotland has received through the Barnett Formula consequentials for the NHS have been spent on health, but sadly I am not.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Well done, NHS

On the weekend of 2/3 March we had a family birthday gathering in a hotel in Edinburgh. During the first night my husband had to go to the Royal Infirmary with cellulitis, possibly a blood clot. On the second night our 84-year-old relative fell and cracked his head. He had to go to Accident and Emergency, Royal Infirmary too. Both times we received prompt, efficient and wonderful care. Well done, NHS!

Jane Gallagher, Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute

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