By Lynn Malone
An eminent Scottish academic has attacked David Cameron, accusing him of being bigoted for his “bold” plans to punish young people in his proposed “earning or learning” regime.
Last week, in a keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister said he wanted to prepare school leavers for a tougher economic world and proposed that those under 25 should lose housing benefit and jobseekers allowance.
Professor Gerard Carruthers who is the Chair of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, has criticised the proposal:
“Like all the other recent Tory ‘initiatives’, this is tokenism that will appeal to the hard of thinking and punishes vulnerable groups. In the case we’re talking about it is the young who would be forced onto inadequately funded or focussed ‘training’ schemes with little or no reward at the end. If there are jobs to be done, let people be paid for them.” He said.
If the Tories win the next general election up to 1m young people who are not in education, employment or training (Neets) – would be affected and their benefits stripped.
In his speech, Mr Cameron said “Go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship. Get a job. But just choose the dole? We’ve got to offer them something better than that. And let no one paint ideas like this as callous.”
Professor Carruthers added: “If there is training that will lead somewhere, then fund and run this properly, with real job prospects at the end of it. Yet, again the Tories scourge a whole group with insensitivity to people’s real needs and the realities of the economy.
“This is bigoted thinking from a government that has nothing to offer other than scape-goating.”
The academic, who is the co-director for the Centre for Robert Burns Studies said the plan was: “Another good reason for voting ‘Yes’ in the forthcoming Scottish referendum?”
SNP MSP Clare Adamson who sits on the Education and Culture Committee is adamant that the plans punish young people.
She said: “David Cameron’s plans will simply punish young people for the failings of his government to create jobs and opportunities for young people.
“In Scotland, the SNP government has worked hard to tackle youth unemployment and thanks to measures like the Opportunities for All scheme, we are outperforming the UK by some considerable distance.
“Westminster’s actions show once again why Scotland needs the power to set our own tax and welfare policy in a way that reflects the values of people in Scotland – something that only a Yes vote next year will secure.”
Citizens Advice Scotland has also expressed concern at the proposed welfare reform.
Their Chief Executive Margaret Lynch said:
“Many young people are struggling already in today’s economy. The job market offers few decent opportunities, house prices are out of reach, and the benefits system as it stands is actually failing to support people adequately, and indeed it actively discriminates against young people in many ways – by giving them less in benefit payments than older people.
“Young people face the same financial pressures as everyone else. A pint of milk or a loaf of bread doesn’t cost any less if you are under 25. Nor does a house, or a heating bill. People under 25 are finding it harder than ever to get on the housing ladder, and our research shows they are also more susceptible to debt problems than older people.
“We would be very concerned about the impact further cuts would have on young people in Scotland. Far from helping them into work, it would be more likely to reduce their personal independence and force them instead towards poverty and debt.”