WITH so many people losing their jobs, with a public health and climate emergency hanging over us and with right-wing misogynists in the most powerful positions in the world, it’s very easy to feel depressed about the state of the world and bleak about the future. However, I think we can see green shoots of hope starting to appear.

The Scottish Greens manifesto in 2016 proposed a jobs guarantee as a way to start building a sustainable future for all, so it was therefore really encouraging to see this idea become part of the Scottish Government’s plans for the post-Covid recovery.

A jobs guarantee is one of those transformative policies, along with a universal basic income and universal basic services, which can create the foundation for a new economy. An economy that puts people before profit and that allows us to live within our environmental means, without exhausting the limited resources of our planet and exterminating the diversity of life on Earth.

The question, of course, is how committed to this radical notion the Scottish Government really is.

Fundamental to a real jobs guarantee is the truth that, in reality there is never, ever a shortage of work that needs to be done, but instead of allowing capitalism to decide what work is “important” – inevitably the work that rewards the already wealthy – each community knows and decides what work is needed.

For example, rather than making plastic widgets that are mass-marketed, used once and chucked in the sea, we could decide we would prefer to have better social care that treats our older people with dignity, build more infrastructure that reduced our reliance on cars, retrofit our homes to make them more efficient and warmer, or to teach music to all children.

Why should the needs of huge corporations drive our local economies, instead of the needs of the people and communities who live there? Work is rarely a joy, it’s often an alternative to destitution, homelessness and starvation. Instead, shouldn’t work be something that we want to engage in to really contribute to our communities?

Of course, the Scottish Government’s jobs guarantee is merely baby steps towards anything like this. It may not even deal with our most immediate challenges. Initial proposals suggest a jobs guarantee for 20,000 young people. This is a start, but it even falls short of the 50,000 young people who are expected to need jobs in the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and the following economic crisis.

It is clear that if the jobs guarantee is to live up to its name we’ll need to see more and longer-term funding. The money required for this programme should be considered investment, not spending.

Only by rebuilding the public sector can we drive up the number of good jobs with fair pay, and by doing this we build up our economic capacity for the future. Not growth for growth’s sake, but rebuilding for a purpose.

The Scottish Government’s proposals might be well short of that, but any jobs guarantee for young people is a change from the short-term thinking that has brought us so many cuts and the policies of austerity. It is long-term thinking. It is positive thinking, building for a better future, rather than cuts, cuts and more cuts that can never lead to anything but more misery and suffering.

The new jobs guarantee is to take inspiration from the Edinburgh guarantee, which ensures that every school-leaver in Edinburgh has the option of further study, apprenticeship or employment. The national scheme is to be led by the same person, so if the principle could be replicated across Scotland then it could make a difference to many.

However, crucially as we face the Covid fall-out, this is not just about school-leavers and quick fixes. It is about all those who have lost their jobs or who remain in insecure and poorly paid employment. It is about the giant corporations who avoid tax yet use jobs as a way to hold governments to ransom for more handouts.

A jobs guarantee should be a part of a detailed plan for a transformative economic recovery that doesn’t fall back on the mistakes of the past. Public ownership, sustainable industry and well-paid work is at the heart of a Scottish Green New Deal. Reducing the working week without impacting pay would increase productivity, reduce business overheads and improve work-life balance. A basic income would close the holes in the UK’s patchy social security net and eliminate its cruelty and stigma.

There is no shortage of jobs in a transition to a zero-carbon economy. We need community heating systems, insulated homes, upgraded railways, bus services to rural communities and safe cycle routes.

We need high-quality social care and childcare, and to ensure that our schools and hospitals are fully staffed. We need to reforest Scotland.

And we need to transition from maximum oil and gas extraction to realise our renewable energy potential. Let’s get to work.