I can remember the human cost of not finding jobs for young people during the Thatcher years. Today we are facing the prospect again. The number of young Scots who are not in work, education or training programmes, has risen from 31,000 to 36,000 in the past year. We need to find practical solutions to give these young people a decent start in life. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have scrapped the Future Jobs Fund which helped young people get that start. I am pleased that Scottish Labour is promising to introduce a Scottish Future Jobs Fund. The country cannot afford to condemn a generation to unemployment and despair.
What have Alex Salmond and Nick Clegg got in common? Well, both made pre-election promises to students which helped them win power. In Alex Salmond's case, he said student debt would be written off. Those who pointed out this could not be done were accused of telling lies. In reality Alex Salmon's promise could never have been delivered and it's one of many promises which he ditched. Nick Clegg said that come what may, he and the Liberal Democrats would vote against tuition fees in England. Now in power, he is desperately trying to explain why tuition fees are necessary. There should be a lesson in this for all politicians. It's time to stop promising what you know can't be afforded.
Protection of Workers Bill
I was disappointed that Alex Salmond's Ministers are opposing my Bill to specify legal penalties against those who assault workers who serve the public. The Scottish Government has ignored overwhelming evidence from trade unions, churches, voluntary organizations, and the Federation of Small Businesses who all said it would make a difference. Regrettably the Scottish Police Federation opposed the bill, saying that existing law was sufficient. And yet the Police Federation want police officers to have the protection of the Emergency Workers Act. I am only asking that this same level of cover is extended to bus drivers, train drivers, shop workers, postal workers, care workers, and anyone else who provides a service to the public. Is it too much to ask that those who provide services on which we depend should be protected by law in the same way as emergency workers?
Even before the Conservative/Liberal Democrat cuts start to bite, SNP Minister's were cutting back on jobs for nurses. Labour had introduced a scheme to ensure that every newly qualified nurse had the guarantee of a job for 12 months. In 2007 there were 14 applications from those who found it difficult to find a job. In recent months the number of applicants has risen to 260 and may continue to rise. Around 2400 nurses are expected to complete their university course in the current financial year at a time when nursing jobs are being cut. Even if they're lucky enough to find a place under the job guarantee scheme, these nurses will face another battle for employment in 12 months. Newly qualified nurses are leaving to work in England, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. It costs nearly £50,000 to train a nurse. We are exporting our talent when we should be keeping them here. What a waste.
The pay stampede at the top of the public sector continues unabated. Renfrewshire Council gave a 23% pay boost to its top Directors. University Principals are now paid an average of nearly £250,000 per year plus perks. And now we find that nearly 3,000 NHS employees in Scotland are earning over £100,000 per year. Unbelievably over 800 earn more than the £138,765 paid to Alex Salmond. In the current financial climate where belts are being tightened and nurses can't find jobs, it's impossible to justify these huge salaries for consultants and senior executives. 1500 nurse and midwife posts are due to be axed this year. It's time Alex Salmond told NHS bosses to sort out their priorities.