ALEX Salmond has unveiled ambitious plans for a strategy to get Scotland back on its feet in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The former First Minister has today called for "action now" to prevent "a tsunami of job losses" in the coming months. His plan has been drawn up with SNP backbencher and close ally Alex Neil.

"There now seems little doubt that a tsunami of job cuts and business closures are about to hit Scotland and the rest of the UK due to the coronavirus crisis," said the two men releasing the plan.

"Some forecasters estimate that the level of unemployment could double in Scotland over the next few months, resulting in many thousands of people losing their jobs. This level of unemployment is unacceptable. The human and financial costs of high unemployment are avoidable if we take action now."
Their detailed plan includes the following aims and measures to achieve them.

The plan calls for the following measures:
• Mass testing with reduced turnaround times for results. 
• Tackling the problem of “super-spreaders”, which are reportedly responsible for up to 80% of all infections.
• Identifying those who are most likely to require hospitalisation if they catch covid so they can receive early intervention to stop them doing so.
• Expanding the programme for distributing Vitamin D supplements to targeted groups who are the most vulnerable to catching the virus.
The document states: "These measures should help reduce the spread of the disease, reduce the number of people requiring hospitalisation and thereby help reduce the number of people dying from covid-19. They should also help save jobs and businesses."

* The plan calls for the following the creation of a National Housebuilding Company (NHC).

It says the core remit for the NHC would be to reach a target of building an additional 10,000 new houses a year in Scotland within the next five years. These houses would be on top of the Scottish Government’s existing housebuilding programme. Most of the new NHC houses would be for rent although some would be for sale. The surplus receipts from the houses for sale would help subsidise the capital costs of the houses for rent.

The NHC would have three other specific remits:
1. To ensure all its new houses are energy efficient whilst providing the highest possible levels of cost-effective heating for their occupants.
2. To maximise the number of apprentices it recruits and trains.
3. To use its clout to help develop and expand the indigenous construction industry supply chain within Scotland.

The document says: "There is a dire shortage of housing in Scotland. We need to build many more houses for both rent and sale. The current number of houses built by councils and housing associations for social rent is the highest it has been for decades, but it is still not enough to satisfy the level of demand."

It adds: "The level of new houses built for sale is nowhere near matching the level of demand. This is resulting in house price inflation, which in turn is making it much more difficult for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder. We urgently need to boost the level of housebuilding in Scotland.

"To be able to do that we need to tackle the endemic shortage of skills which has for too long acted as a barrier to growth in the construction sector.

"We also need to tackle the issue of land availability for housing. The shortage of land is pushing up the price of development land and thereby pushing up the cost of construction as well as encouraging land banking. As with the aforementioned skill shortages, these constraints are having a detrimental impact on the level of housebuilding in Scotland."

Salmond's and Neil's proposals also include providing grants for a large scale renovation of homes including the social housing sector, privately rented houses and privately owned houses as well as subsidies to convert empty and derelict properties into houses.

The plans say that "shovel-ready projects" for public infrastructure improvements such as to schools and hospitals are one of the quickest ways for government to create new jobs.
The following types of projects should be included:
• New build and refurbishment projects.
• Repair and maintenance projects.
• Projects in the areas of high unemployment and deprivation.

It says: "The Scottish Government and its agencies should draw up a hit list of projects for immediate implementation, giving priority to those with the greatest jobs potential...Prior to covid there were huge skill gaps in Scotland holding back the growth of Scotland’s economy."

It adds: "Examples include a shortage of about 12,000 skilled construction workers, 5,000 long-distance lorry drivers, an annual deficit of up to 7,000 IT graduates, shortages of staff to fill the jobs available in the National Health Service, skill shortages in the teaching profession, etc.

These are all areas of the economy where there is no shortage of jobs, just the people to fill them."

The plan suggests two measures: 
1. To expand existing training programmes to help meet the demand in key sectors, such as construction and IT.
2. Introduce a Training and Employment Grants Scheme (TEGS) and make it available to any employer who is willing to participate.

It adds: "Based on a similar scheme successfully run many years ago by Strathclyde Regional Council, TEGS would provide a wages and training subsidy to those businesses which recruited people who are unemployed, under notice of redundancy and young people seeking a job. Disadvantaged people, such as those with a disability, would receive a higher level of subsidy."


1. Zero interest rate loan scheme for businesses:
The plan states: "The most urgent task is to help those businesses been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis with their immediate cash-flow problems. The best way to do that is by offering a long-term loan at a zero interest rate and with an initial repayment holiday, long enough to allow the business time to get back on its feet. The Scottish Government should set up such a loan scheme."

2. A research and development fund:
The plan states: "Such a fund would use public money to leverage external funding to set up industrial research and development projects, so that on average for every pound it invested, others would invest at least another two pounds of non-governmental funds."

It adds: "Although the fund should be flexible and not limited to particular sectors, it should pro-actively pursue opportunities in sectors with proven growth potential in Scotland, such as space, renewable energy, cybercrime technologies, games technologies and animal and human life sciences. These types of activities have huge job potential. For example, the life sciences sector has an “multiplier” similar to that for construction."

The plans says: "As a major energy producer of both carbon and renewable resources, Scotland is in a unique position to manage a successful industrial transition from carbon to post carbon technologies.

"Despite the establishment of a successful and internationally competitive supply chain base, the resource benefit of half a century of hydrocarbon development has disappeared into the maw of the London Treasury."

It adds: "Scotland dominates UK onshore wind production and is now starting to develop an offshore resource, which has an estimated 25 per cent of European potential. Therefore, onshore and offshore renewables in Scotland are now in the position of oil and gas circa 1970 with major opportunities ahead but requiring the political imperative to secure these resource benefits for the nation.

It also calls for a Scottish National Renewable Corporation (SNRC)to be set up.

Concluding Salmond and Neil write: "The above proposals would transform Scotland’s prospects for post-coronavirus economic recovery and avoid mass unemployment. The Barnett consequentials for Scotland arising from the UK Government spending review, coupled with the Scottish Government’s own resources, should be prioritised for this purpose...Innovation in politics and economics is often driven by necessity and creates change and opportunity. The way out of crisis is to first generate and then seize these opportunities. This paper is our contribution to that Scottish effort. "