25 May 2009

Scottish Parliament speech on Supporting Employment

21 May 2009

Derek Brownlee echoed John Park's comments about the human costs of redundancy.
It is right that the effect on ordinary people should be the main focus of attention in the debate.
The comments of Duncan McNeil and James Kelly concerned me.
If workers are made redundant anywhere in Scotland, they deserve the full attention of politicians, and specifically ministers, irrespective of where the companies are and who the workers' local representatives are.
I hope that ministers are not being partial in their response to redundancies, as some of the evidence that I have seen suggests.
It would be fundamentally wrong if workers who are made redundant had to pay a price for political infighting in the Parliament.
I understand that, inevitably, ministers will support members from their party on local initiatives—that is the nature of politics and I do not criticise them for it
However, no worker in the country should have a delayed response from ministers simply because they live in one area rather than another.
I hope that ministers will reflect on those comments.
Let us not have a stushie; let us just reflect on the issue and possibly change attitudes and future behaviour.

Jim Mather: Does the member acknowledge that, as part and parcel of fulfilling our responsibilities, since way back last May, we have been going round the country, running 96 sessions and talking to 5,000 people at community and industry levels? We are trying proactively to make Scotland's economy better and more effective. Will the member reflect on that?

Hugh Henry: I will reflect on that but, equally, Jim Mather needs to reflect on the criticisms from Greenock, Cambuslang, East Kilbride and other areas where there have been delays in responses from ministers.
That is unacceptable and the minister must address it.
We must plan and prepare for our future and we need to invest in our young people.
I am concerned that, in Renfrewshire in the past year, 30 apprentices have been made redundant, of whom 21 are still looking for alternatives.
The main source of apprenticeships in the construction industry has dried up.
Large companies are now often contract managers and brokers, so they subcontract rather than employ.
Therefore, we need to support small companies that can provide apprenticeships for young people.
I am thinking of companies such as MPS Training in Johnstone in my constituency, which is run by Willie Cosh. Such companies often offer young people varied and stimulating training and learning experiences that are better all round.
If we invest in those companies now, we will be paid a handsome dividend in the future.
Several members have mentioned ConstructionSkills in Scotland.
I do not want to be particularly critical of it, but we need to have an open mind, be objective and ask hard questions about its performance
Is it helping small companies?
Do they feel that it is of value?
Let us be open minded and objective in coming up with answers on what we can do and, more significantly, what we can do better.
I pay compliments to colleges throughout Scotland for their role in tackling the problem.
For example, Reid Kerr College in Paisley has an outstanding record of helping young people into training and employment. I give particular credit to the college's built environment department.
Colleges can make a difference, so we must invest in them.
Packages of employment and training need to be made available and we need partnerships that can work together closely.
We need partnerships between the private and public sectors and between schools and colleges.
ConstructionSkills in Scotland should be the facilitator for such an approach, but at this juncture, I worry whether it can do that job.
I worry that rather than preparing young people for the construction industry as it exists today, it is continuing to prepare young people for the construction industry in a world that no longer exists and in social circumstances that have moved on.
That should be a wake-up call and a challenge to us all.