Labour are facing questions over their pre-election pledge of support for young people after the SNP claimed that most of the promises were uncosted.
The party, already showing signs of internal dissent after voting against apprenticeships and bursary support in last week’s budget, are under pressure to explain how they will pay for their latest promise of 10,000 placements for young people.
On Monday the SNP announced their intention to expand on their plans for young people which were announced in last week’s budget. The Nationalists are committed to 25,000 apprenticeship places a year for the next four years and an expanded programme to help young people into work with 25,000 training places under the party’s £40 million Youth Employment Scotland (YES) proposals.
Labour attacked the SNP proposals for being “too timid” however Andy Kerr then pledged a figure of only 10,000 for a newly set up Future Jobs Fund. This was less than a week after they voted down £10 million of support for small business to take on employees, a fund for the voluntary sector to provide employment opportunities and a record 25,000 apprentices plus further support for bursaries.
The SNP have attacked Labour’s plans and claimed that not only is Iain Gray’s party offering 40,000 less than the SNP but the figure is half the 20,000 places Labour promised last May in their Westminster election manifesto. The Nationalists also claim that this is 90,000 less places promised by Iain Gray in a Newsnight Scotland interview in November.
Andy Kerr, at the last Labour conference, committed £40 million to fund youth employment. In the same Newsnight Scotland interview Mr Gray, when pressed on funding, explained that Labour would seek to reach an agreement with the Tory/Lib Dem coalition in an attempt to seek the extra cash from London.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations have estimated that places provided through the voluntary sector cost around £6,500 per capita. Labour’s previous scheme allowed organisations to claim £6,500. This, say the SNP, would mean that to deliver 10,000 places would therefore cost up to £65 million – £25 million less than Labour’s estimate.
Challenging Labour, Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris accused the party of being mired in confusion and contradiction. The Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee said: “A re-elected SNP government will extend our policy of 25,000 apprenticeships a year from next year to the next four years and also expand training places that get young people into work with a £20 million investment to provide 25,000 training for work places in each of the next four years.
“The SNP in Government has already taken action by increasing apprenticeships to a record 20,000 and increasing bursaries by 25% before this year’s budget to help our young people. At the coming election we will do more.
“In contrast Labour’s position is mired in confusion and contradiction, how many places are they offering and how many young people do they actually intend to help?
Mr Doris described the claim that the UK government would foot the bill for Labour’s plans as an empty promise and pointed out that in last week’s Scottish budget debate Labour wanted the Scottish government to pay.
Mr Doris added: “How will it be funded? Labour have said the UK Government will pay, then asked the Scottish Government for the funds. Is this simply an empty promise to Scotland’s young people?
“After voting against a budget for jobs and training that gave them everything they wanted – and more – Labour’s job pledges are looking confused and unambitious.”
Yesterday Andy Kerr announced support for youngsters unemployed for six months or more. The Labour finance spokesman said that Labour’s Future Jobs Fund would help 10,000 young Scots and would be open to any business.