Scotland politics

Salmond announces youth jobs minister portfolio

A dedicated minister for youth employment will be appointed by the Scottish government, the first minister has told MSPs.

Alex Salmond announced the move after Labour claimed Scotland was in the midst of a "national crisis", with 100,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work.

Leading figures from the business community had recently called for such a role.

The Smith Group produced a report saying the young should not be ignored.

It stated: "We recommend that the issue is of such significance that it should be tackled through a dedicated ministerial portfolio, rather than an 'add-on' to a wider brief.

"This would provide the appropriate level of accountability for a national priority."

Mr Salmond told Holyrood that he would put the proposal before his cabinet, meeting next Tuesday.

He added: "That [proposal] will be brought to this chamber as quickly as possible, probably next Wednesday."

The new minister would have £30m to spend tackling the problem, with the money being brought together from other government departments.

Plan welcomed

Mr Salmond said the youth employment minister would then work with local councils, the voluntary sector, the private sector and others "in bringing forward the substantial proposals that must be made".

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray welcomed the announcement of the new minister, saying: "Alex Salmond seems finally to get the point the SNP government have not done enough to tackle youth unemployment. I welcome the fact he will now follow Labour's call for a minister for youth jobs.

During the debate the Labour MSP said the 100,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work was the "highest figure ever recorded" for this age group.

Mr Gray added: "This is a national crisis - a crisis for Scotland - because of the profound threat it poses to the future prosperity, future equality and future fairness of our society."

As well as calling for a new minister to be appointed to tackle the issue, Labour suggested that a scheme in the voluntary sector should be expanded.

The Community Jobs Scotland initiative is a partnership between the Scottish government, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Social Enterprise Scotland, which aims to create 2,000 work opportunities for unemployed individuals.

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