KOFI Annan once said that a society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.

This week saw the publication of the Annual Report on the progress of the Scottish Government’s Youth Employment strategy: ‘Developing the Young Workforce’.

The strategy was launched three years ago and its primary objective was a 40 per cent reduction in youth unemployment within seven years. So it’s great to hear that the target has been achieved already, four years early. Scotland’s youth unemployment is now the third lowest in the EU; a third lower than the UK average. This has been achieved through more employment focused learning for young people — including foundation and modern apprenticeships — and the engagement of employers in the process.

But we can’t rest on our laurels.

The independent Scottish Fiscal Commission has stated Scotland’s economy is currently operating at capacity, meaning that growth is constrained by the lack of an appropriate workforce. Compounded by the looming Brexit cliff edge, which will further constrain our working age population, it is essential maximum effort is made to ensure those furthest from the labour market are given opportunities to join the workforce.

The parts of our country that suffer most from lack of opportunity are where the maximum focus needs to be; ensuring young people are supported into work and are shown society, as a whole, values their contribution and prioritises their future career prospects.

Unfortunately my own Glasgow Provan constituency, with the highest unemployment rate in the country, is one such area, and so stands to benefit, disproportionately, from a successful youth employment strategy.

There’s still a gender employment gap in many sectors, and opportunities for care-experienced young people need to be expanded further, building on the work that’s already been done by the Scottish Government and great initiatives such as MCR Pathway’s Young Glasgow Talent programme.

A more inclusive economy leads to more sustainable growth, and a labour market which is more resilient to recessions and downturns.

Facilitating the entry of young skilled people into productive sectors of the economy leads to more innovation and drives growth. Investing in young people equips our country with the skills and talent required to protect our economy in the future. And this is particularly important for Scotland. We don’t have all the necessary economic levers to grow our economy, but this is one area where the impact could be substantial.

There is nothing more critical to the future long-term success of the Scottish economy, and of Scottish society, than ensuring our young people, have the training and the opportunities to participate in the workforce to their full potential. Supplying the youth of Scotland with the means and skills to forge their own future facilitates self-determination at its most fundamental level.