Government under pressure as Scotland’s unemployment figure rises
Total employment also lags behind UK average
Scotland’s unemployment figures are continuing to rise, according to new data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Statistics show that between October and December of 2016, the number of unemployed people in Scotland rose to 135,000, up 6,000 from the previous year.
Though there was an increase in the number of Scots in employment – up 8,000, to a total of 2.61 million – the rise in 2016 was 20,000 less than in the previous year. Currently, Scotland’s employment rate stands at 73.6%, which is lower than the UK average.
Scottish Secretary of State, David Mundell said, there was a need to exercise “caution” when dealing with the labour market in Scotland.
He added: “Declining economic activity during the last 12 months, and the gap between the Scottish and UK labour markets, remains a concern.”
The rise in unemployment has led some to question the Scottish Government’s strategy of pursuing a second independence referendum.
In the wake of Brexit, public support for independence increased significantly, but there are new concerns that it has overshadowed problem areas.
Hugh Aitken, Director of CBI Scotland, told press: “Rising unemployment is a concern, which means the Scottish Government needs to focus on supporting businesses to create jobs and economic growth.”
Despite rises in unemployment over the last quarter, Scotland’s overall unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points over this year to 5.1 per cent, according to the latest ONS figures published on 18 January 2017.
Commenting on the statistics, SNP Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn said: “It is clear that the Scottish and UK economies are currently facing challenging economic conditions nevertheless, despite a slight rise in the unemployment rate over the most recent quarter, it has fallen over the past year.
“It is also heartening to see how strongly we are performing in the youth labour market, where we see the unemployment levels among young Scots steadily declining.”
Furthermore, the Scottish Government has plans in place to introduce a Capital Acceleration Programme, and a £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme, designed to provide investment guarantees and loans, of up to £5 million for eligible businesses.
It remains to be seen whether the Government’s initiatives will continue to improve economic stability and employment rates in Scotland.
Featured Image Credit: By Matthew Ross / Wikimedia Commons