Full Employment should be our overarching objective

Ken Macintosh

Image © Ken MacintoshOur task in the Scottish Parliament is not just to secure good government, but to build the good society: a happier, more compassionate and more confident Scotland; a caring society where we look out for one another, not just ourselves; a society that values ambition but not greed; a society where selfishness is balanced out by selflessness.

There may be no individual policy which by itself will deliver the good society, but I am an optimist and I believe full employment should be the overarching aim of government.

Having a job gives people self-esteem and a sense of purpose. It helps tackle dependency and poverty, it makes Scotland more productive and each of us more prosperous. Full employment can help give everyone a stake in our society and provide an antidote to a range of social ills.

There is much that government can do to take us closer to full employment: we can create the education and training opportunities to make people more employable; we can create the conditions for business and enterprise to thrive.

During this leadership campaign I’ve set out costed, credible initiatives that can take us closer to that goal. I have announced a bold plan to create 20,000 youth jobs that would reduce the number of young people out of work by a quarter. Known as the Next Generation Jobs Grant, the scheme would offer businesses cash incentives to employ 18-24-year-olds.

The Business Bonus Scheme costs Scotland £130m per year but has little quantifiable benefit to the jobs market, a view backed up by the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Meanwhile, we are facing a youth unemployment crisis with one in four young people out of work.

I would take positive action to prevent another generation being thrown on the scrapheap. I want to encourage growing businesses to create youth jobs by putting conditions on £130m already going to companies through the Business Bonus Scheme, so boosting economic growth. My Next Generation Jobs Grant will put 20,000 young people into work, making it the biggest, boldest jobs creation scheme Scotland has ever seen.

During my campaign I have also set out an ambitious plan for a state-owned Scottish Investment Bank that would harness the power of banking for public ends. Part of a bigger British Investment Bank, it would have the ability to issue bonds. The fully devolved Scottish arm would have a specific remit to stimulate growth by investing in housing, transport and energy projects that are most beneficial to the Scottish economy, rather than projects which give the highest return to the short-term investor.

If I’m elected leader of Scotland’s Labour Party I will put the focus back on jobs by bringing forward fresh ideas for Scotland’s future that will fix our economy and stimulate growth.

The powers of the Scottish Parliament are not an excuse for why things can’t be done; they are a liberator to release the potential of our nation. And I would make full employment our central mission.

I will seek to build the good society: a more accountable, productive and prosperous society that I want for my family and every family in Scotland.

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