Labour MSP savaged after modern apprenticeships attack backfires


By G.A.Ponsonby
A Labour MSP who this week launched a high profile attack on the Scottish Government’s modern apprenticeship scheme been accused of misrepresentation after official figures showed a more than 100 per cent improvement on when her own party were in office.
Labour’s Youth Employment spokesperson Kezia Dugdale had accused the SNP of “massaging” numbers after official figures showed that 39% of modern apprentices had been in employment for more than six months before beginning their training.

Ms Dugdale repeated her attack in the chamber during First Minister’s Questions where she asked Mr Salmond to be “straight with the people”

She said: “Everyone in this chamber wants to tackle Scotland’s youth unemployment crisis, but to do so we need the facts.

“The people of Scotland were led to believe by this First Minister, week after week, that these 25,000 apprenticeships were created to help the 100,000 young Scots out of work.

“But now we know at least 10,000 of these went to folk already well-established in jobs.”

However in response the First Minister launched a withering attack on the Labour MSP and pointed out that there were now double the number of modern apprentices in Scotland than when Labour left office.

“I have to say I have watched Kezia Dugdale over the last few days in what I think has been one of the most disreputable campaigns against the modern apprenticeship scheme.” he said.

Mr Salmond went on to reveal that the system that Ms Dugdale was criticising was the same one that was in operation when her own party was in office and that the figures for those Scots aged 16 to 24 had dramatically improved.  The First Minister compared the figures now with 2006 and added:

“I have had a look at the figures” said Mr Salmond, who pointed out that Labour had voted against the SNP’s modern apprenticeship policy of 10,00 places per year.

“I have looked in particular at the very heart of Kezia Dugdale’s complaint, and that is of course if you look at the 16 to 24 year old who dominate the courses … the number who had been in employment for more than six months is 23 per cent.

“That means 80 per cent of new workers going into apprenticeships in the 16 to 24 age group.

“I have looked at what is the comparison, what is the figure when the Labour party were in office in 2006.

“The figure is 49 per cent.

“In other words, when Labour were in power, with a reduced number of apprenticeships, half of young people had been in a job for six months or more.”

Mr Salmond ended his reply by angrily condemning what he described as Ms Dugdale’s “affrontery” in attacking the current modern apprenticeship scheme.

Commenting, SNP MSP Marco Biagi – a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee accused the Labour MSP of having misrepresented the programme and said:
“When you’re in a hole, stop digging.  Labour clearly are not content with just voting against 25,000 modern apprenticeships, now Kezia Dugdale is intent on trying to misrepresent the Modern Apprenticeship programme itself.
“Ms Dugdale accused the Scottish Government of ‘massaging’ the figures on Modern Apprentices – even though it runs the system in the same manner as when Labour were in power, and that under the SNP the number of apprenticeships has vastly increased.
“Labour’s grand accusation was that some apprenticeships had been in employment for over 6 months – this has always been the case and provides welcome opportunities for many to improve their skills in their workplace.

“And as the First Minister revealed today, a far higher rate of unemployed young people have entered apprenticeships than when Labour were last in power.”

The Labour campaign has featured prominently on BBC Scotland with TV and Radio appearances for Ms Dugdale.  The story was featured on Sunday’s politics show with news bulletins throughout the day, it also featured prominently on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday and BBC Scotland’s online news.

However, in Thursday’s BBC Scotland broadcast of First minister’s Questions the broadcaster cut away from the programme just as Mr Salmond was preparing to highlight the figures from 2006.

On Monday, appearing on Radio Scotland in order to address Labour party claims, Scottish Government Minister Angela Constance twice attempted to draw attention to Labour’s record from 2006 but was prevented from doing so by presenter Gary Robertson.

Here is the moment BBC Scotland cut away from Mr Salmond:

Here is an actual recording of the question and Mr Salmond’s full answer: