A new £20 million Business Innovation & Growth programme to help drive forward economic recovery has been announced by First Minister Alex Salmond.
The programme, deploying £20 million from Scotland’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) allocation, will leverage a further £30 million from public and third-sector partners to deliver projects supporting economic growth across the country.
Mr Salmond unveiled the initiative at the eleventh National Economic Forum, being attended by more than 150 delegates from business, trade unions, government, the wider public sector and the Third sector, including Sir Ian Wood who was addressing the event in his role as chair of the independent Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.
The new programme will fund projects, to be operational by the autumn, which demonstrate an impact on job creation by investing in business competitiveness, innovation and improving the employment opportunities of people living in deprived and fragile communities.
It follows the unveiling last week of details of a £88 million youth employment and business growth package to help create new jobs and up to 10,000 employment opportunities for young people. Last week also saw Office for National Statistics figures highlighting that Scotland continues to outperform the UK on all three labour market indicators (employment, unemployment and inactivity rates) both for the whole population and among young people.
The First Minister said:
“Sustainable economic growth remains this Government’s priority. By working with public and third sector partners, together with unions and business, as we do through the National Economic Forum, we can deliver on our ambition to support and mobilise talented individuals and thriving communities across the country. We are using all the levers and resources currently available to us to create jobs, support investment and drive down unemployment, including youth unemployment.
“We are delivering opportunities for all of Scotland’s young people, to help tackle youth unemployment – down by a quarter since we appointed Europe’s first dedicated Minister for Youth Employment – and to ensure that no-one is left behind as we make encouraging, though fragile steps towards economic recovery and prosperity.
“And through the choices we’ve made, and through our stewardship of ERDF funds in Scotland, we’re maximising the impact of the public sector and third sector drive for economic growth to ensure that no part of Scotland is left behind. This programme can help fuel businesses as the engine of the economy to drive economic growth and create the jobs that Scotland needs.”
Today also sees the publication of a Scottish Enterprise report on Regional Selective Assistance which shows that RSA funding awarded over the last year will be supporting or creating more than 4,700 jobs, with an increased proportion (82 per cent) of offers accepted going to small or medium-sized enterprises operating in Scotland.
Scotland now has one of the lowest levels of youth joblessness in the European Union, with only five EU countries now having a lower youth unemployment rate than Scotland.
Last week’s ONS figures showed Scotland’s employment rate now higher, and its unemployment rate now lower, than in any of the other three nations of the UK. The Scottish youth unemployment rate fell by 6.1 percentage points over the last year to reach of 15.2 per cent (compared to the UK rate of 19.5 per cent), while Scotland’s youth employment rate rose four percentage points over the year to 57.1 per cent – significantly higher than the UK rate of 49.7 per cent.