Months of lockdown have left the Scottish economy fragile and vulnerable to future shocks. Unemployment is already at a five-year high, while hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers have been on furlough or supported by schemes such as the self-employment income support scheme. With the impact of the end of furlough yet to be realised there is a very real concern that this level of unemployment will only grow.
Business activity has been significantly reduced and, even with the easing of lockdown, it will take some time for the economy to return to pre-pandemic levels. This means that there will be a continued need for government support to protect individual incomes, to smooth conditions for businesses as they reopen, and to transition people into new employment where their job may be made redundant.
The approach taken by both the UK and Scottish Governments, while welcome, has focused on the immediate risks and stop-gap solutions, not on the long term health of workers and the economy.
Extraordinary measures were taken to support people during the pandemic, but many have still fallen through the gaps. Now we need to see the Scottish Government produce plans for how to mitigate the continuing social and economic consequences of this.
People across Scotland complied with restrictions with the expectation that government would be there to help them out of this crisis and they cannot be let down.
The Scottish Government should be focused to ensure that no one who wants to work is without a job. This demands a collective effort from government, the wider public sector, the private sector and trade unions to focus Scotland on action in this area.
One aspect that I think isn’t given enough attention is the economy and its relationship to the environment. Here in Scotland we need a laser like focus on transitioning to the green economy.
The transition to net-zero holds tremendous opportunities for Scottish manufacturing and our economy. As such, Scottish Labour has set up a commission which will focus relentlessly on how we can make the transition to net-zero deliver work, confidence and prosperity to Scotland.
We must not repeat the mistakes of the past and ensure that the people who work in oil industry do not face unemployment and no chance to reskill and work in this new green economy.
The Scottish Government’s efforts up and till this point have shown that don’t have the vision required to support jobs and help the change to a green economy.