“Another independence referendum will continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the past decade, with Scottish schools, hospitals and jobs again left behind because of a campaign to separate the UK” – Boris Johnson’s letter rejecting indyref2


SCOTLAND’S unemployment rate is below that of the UK and below that of five of the nine English regions, including London where Boris was mayor. Scotland’s youth unemployment is well below that of both the UK and the rest of Europe. Scotland’s business creation is at a record level.

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ONE obvious test is the rate of unemployment – normally measured for those over age 16. According to the Office for National Statistics, in Scotland the unemployment rate stood at 3.7% (for Q3 of 2019) compared to 3.8% for the UK, 3.8% for England and an average of 6.3% for the EU. Scottish unemployment was 0.3 percentage points down for the quarter and 0.1 percentage points down for the year. Clearly there is no evidence here that the Scottish Government has a poor track record on jobs.

If we look at the situation in the individual UK regions, we find that unemployment is in many cases far worse than in Scotland. Of the nine English regions, five have a higher unemployment rate than Scotland: North East (6.1), North West (4.0), Yorkshire and Humber (4.1), West Midlands (4.5) and, surprisingly, London (4.5). The East Midlands is on a par with Scotland and only three English regions have a lower unemployment rate than Scotland: East (3.2), South East (3.1) and South West (2.6).

Note, the ONS unemployment figures are compiled using a sampling basis which is known to be very error prone. However, over the period since 2011, Scottish unemployment on the ONS data has usually been lower than the UK figure, proving there is no evidence for Boris Johnson’s claim that the SNP Government has a bad track record on the jobs front. The real jobs crisis lies in the North of England and inner London.


ANOTHER way of examining the success or failure of the labour market is to look at youth employment. The latest numbers for youth employment were published in December by the Scottish Government. They refer to the 16-24 age group. In Scotland, the youth employment rate is 59% compared with only 54.2% at the UK level. This gives the lie to the PM’s allegation against the Scottish Government that it has a poor jobs record.

The youth unemployment rate in Scotland is 9.1% compared to 11.4% at a UK level. The average youth unemployment rate in the EU in 2019 was 15% and above 30% in some countries. By this score, Scotland has one of the best youth employment records. (Note: the remainder of young people are for the 
most part in education, home carers or not seeking work.)

Some point to the fact that Scotland has a higher inactivity rate for the past four years – people not in the jobs market – as proof that the Scottish labour market underperforms compared to England. But the “inactive” are largely those in education or performing home care duties. Scotland has traditionally had a much higher participation rate in higher and further education than in England. In 2013-14, for instance, according to a study by the Sutton Trust, 55% of Scots entered higher education by the age of 30, compared to only 46.6% in England.


THE SNP Government has a strong track record in helping the creation of new businesses as job providers. As of March 2019, there were an estimated 356,550 private sector businesses operating in Scotland – the highest number since current records began in 2000, despite the intervening financial crisis of 2008. Between 2000 and 2019, the estimated total number of businesses increased by an amazing 50% – hardly a sign of failure at the day job. Despite Brexit uncertainties, Scotland continues to grow businesses successful thanks to support from the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. The number of new businesses registered for VAT and/or PAYE also increased in the 12 months to March 2019 – up by 2485 (1.4%) to 178,780 – also the highest on record.

Over the latest year, the number of registered businesses in the strategic “financial and insurance activities” sector increased by 6.3% (+140 businesses) – the sector with the highest relative growth. The number of registered businesses in the construction sector jumped by 475 (+2.3%) – a key indication of confidence in the local economy. Business growth was widespread, with the stock of registered businesses increasing in 23 of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas. Registered business stock rose highest in Edinburgh (+3.3%, 650 businesses) and Glasgow (+2.7%, 530 businesses).


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Boris lies again...

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