By Martin Kelly
The STUC has said that the Scottish Parliament does not have enough powers to deal with the UK’s troubled economy.
Commenting on the day the Scottish Trade Union Congress launched a jobs campaign, the organisation claimed that the Scottish jobs market has suffered more during the recession than the rest of the UK.
Calling for a march and rally on Saturday in support of calls for changes to economic policy, STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “The analysis we are publishing today shows that over the past four years Scotland has experienced steeper declines in total employment and full-time employment than any other part of the United Kingdom and a steeper increase in ILO (International Labour Organization) unemployment.
“The claimant count in Scotland has nearly doubled over this period; a higher increase than for the UK as a whole. For every full-time vacancy in Scotland there are eight JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance) claimants.
“In the worst hit area of West Dunbartonshire, 40 people are chasing every job.”
Mr Smith admitted that a number of indicators showed that Scotland had performed slightly better than the rest of the United Kingdom but expressed his concern at the employment situation north of the border.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Assistant Secretary of the STUC Stephen Boyd echoed his colleague’s concerns but laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Westminster government’s austerity measures and the limited powers made available to Scotland.
Asked whether the Scottish government’s alternative approach had failed, Mr Boyd said whilst it raised issues, the real problem was the lack of powers at the Scottish government’s disposal.
Acknowledging that the John Swinney had introduced some clever initiatives, he said: “I think the Scottish government have come forward through the course of the recession with some creative measures.” and added:
“The problem is when the UK government embarks on an austerity strategy, like it’s doing at this moment in time, the Scottish government really simply doesn’t have the powers available to it to be able to step in and spend in such a way at levels that would really bring the economy out of the current slump, I think we all have to really recognise that.”
Mr Boyd highlighted the UK slump in output, which has left a gap of 12% since 2007, and called for more public spending from the UK government.
“We really don’t have the powers […] If we are going to see real measures that are really going to bring the labour market out of the current slump then we really need to see significant public spending and the Scottish government, within its very restrictive budget, is just not able to do that.” he said.