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  1. The Europe Committee takes evidence on the Erasmus+ programme
  2. MSPs question ministers in general questions
  3. Nicola Sturgeon faces questions from the opposition leaders and backbench MSPs during first minister's questions
  4. MSPs debate the Carer Positive Employer Initiative
  5. The government leads a debate on developing the young workforce

Live Reporting

By Louise Wilson and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live this week

That's all from Holyrood Live on 11 January 2018.

Nicola Sturgeon insisted Scotland's NHS is peforming better than the rest of the UK, during first minister's questions

The first minister defended the way the NHS is dealing with the increased winter pressure, under pressure from Ruth Davidson, Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie.

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that Scotland's health service was the best performing in the UK
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that Scotland's health service was the best performing in the UK

The flu rate in Scotland is now four times what is was at this time last year.

In the past few weeks, A and E waiting times reached record levels, some operations had to be postponed and some GP surgeries have opened on Saturdays to cope with demand.

However BBC analysis found A&E units performed better than those in England in December, despite some of the worst figures on record.

Decision time

MSPs reject the Labour amendment from the the debate on developing the young workforce.

26 MSPs backed it, but 88 MSPs voted against it.

They unanimously back the Lib Dem and Tory amendments and the government's amended motion.

Zero-hours contracts are wanted by some young people, says Swinney

Education Secretary John Swinney

Education Secretary John Swinney says the Scottish government's three main efforts in education - GIRFEC, Curriculum for Excellence and Developing the Young Workforce - have one thing in common: they are geared towards developing the needs of each and every child.

On gender segregation, he says that over 40% of apprenticeship starts in 2016-17 were female, though accept this is not good enough.

He agrees to "address that more wholeheartedly".

On the Labour amendment, the education secretary agrees zero-hours contracts have "no place in the fair work agenda".

However, he says employment law must be devolved if the Scottish government is to have any say over this.

On whether to include them in positive statistics, he argues that zero-hours contracts are sometimes what young people want.

Minister says target of reducing unemployment by 40% met four years early

Education Secretary John Swinney
Education Secretary John Swinney

Education Secretary John Swinney says MSPs have recognised there is much to celebrate in year three of the seven year strategy, but continued effort and focus is required to achieve the goals of the Wood Report.

Mr Swinney agrees with Labour MSP Iain Gray's praise of the Wood Report.

He says the government has achieved the target of reducing unemployment by 40% four years earlier than called for in the report.

Background: Strategy to cut youth unemployment by 40%

Working youth

Scotland's vocational education system must be improved if youth unemployment is to fall, according to a report published in 2014.

A commission chaired by businessman Sir Ian Wood recommended that employers play a far bigger role in schools and colleges.

The Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce said that if the measures contained in the report were implemented, youth unemployment could be cut by 40%.

The Wood Foundation has been operating for ten years
The Wood Foundation has been operating for ten years

Scotland's youth employment minister at the time then unveiled a plan aimed at achieving that target.

Sir Ian's report made a total of 39 recommendations, including providing quality work experience, increasing recognition of colleges' role in developing the workforce and providing more modern apprenticeships.

They were all accepted by the Scottish government.

Progress report is a 'mixed bag'

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson says the progress report presents a "mixed bag" with some targets on track and others set to be missed.

To ensure employment is sustainable, more needs to be done to develop skills, he says.

On careers education, he highlights evidence suggesting it is inconsistent across schools, and links between primary schools and employers are limited.

While he welcomes the Scottish government's STEM strategy, he argues much of its actions are "overdue".

Labour MSP wants zero-hours contracts to be removed from positive destinations stats

Labour MSP Mary Fee
Labour MSP Mary Fee

Labour MSP Mary Fee voices her support for all the amendments and the government motion.

Ms Fee says in today's world the odds are ever increasing against young people.

She says she wants zero-hours contracts to be removed from government statistics for positive destinations.

The Labour MSP says the government strategy must support people in and out of employment and zero-hours contracts do not achieve this.

She says there are 25,000 young and exploited Scots.

Progress has been made, but more must be done says Ms Fee.

The Labour MSP says more needs to be done to ensure female, disabled and BME people get apprenticeships and keep them.

Lib Dems MSP welcomes ongoing focus on young workers

Tavish Scott

Closing for the Lib Dems, Tavish Scott says the strategy deserves the constant ministerial attention it has received.

He expresses concern that parity of esteem between academic and vocational education has not yet been achieved.

Mr Scott warns against forthcoming educational reforms putting more burdens on headteachers and asks Education Secretary John Swinney to consider this.

He ends by calling for more support for women to enter stereotypically male professions.

The Fair Hospitality Charter

Unite the union's fair hospitality charter has been touched on.

Fair Hospitality charter

One of its main campaigns is arguing for young workers to be paid the same as those aged 25 and over.

Currently, workers aged 25 and over are entitled to the national living wage of £7.50 an hour.

Meanwhile, 18-20 year olds and 21-24 year olds are entitled to minimum wages of £5.60 and £7.05 per hour, respectively.

SNP MSP welcomes early meeting of the target of reducing youth unemployment by 40%

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire says the meeting of the target to reduce youth unemployment by 40% early is welcome.

Ms Maguire adds young people ready and willing to work are a benefit to employers, but employers must also be willing to offer training and support.

SUMMARY: Modern Apprenticeship target announced


At least 28,000 new apprentices will be trained next year, with increased support for rural areas and key sectors.

The target for 2018/19 was announced by Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn in today’s debate in the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Government’s Developing the Young Workforce agenda.

Mr Hepburn also confirmed changes to the rural supplement and increased funding for apprenticeships in key sectors.

These enhancements will mitigate against the cost of service delivery in rural locations and provide additional support for training costs in key areas, such as social services.

Scottish government
Scottish government

Budget constraints could undermine intentions, warns Labour MSP

Labour MSP Johann Lamont

Labour MSP Johann Lamont calls for an impact assessment of budgets on the Developing the Young Workforce strategy.

She warns that reductions in education budgets, caused by cuts to local government, will undermine Sir Ian Woods intentions.

Background: Is it good that young people are staying on in education?

Jamie McIvor

BBC Scotland education correspondent

Exam passes are high by historic standards, more youngsters are staying on at school and going to college or university.

Is this a good thing in itself? Or is the education system simply having to adapt to the fact that in the modern world there are fewer good jobs for young people, and that unskilled jobs are disappearing?

Getty Images

The number of so-called Neets - youngsters who are not in education, employment or training - is at a very low level by historic standards.

The Scottish government guarantees youngsters who are not in a job a place in education or training. It is often the case that a pupil classed as a Neet has a long back story which helps explains the situation.

Read more here.

Background: Number of UK workers on zero-hours contracts falls

Deliveroo cyclist
Getty Images

The number of people on zero-hours contracts in their main job fell slightly, according to official figures published in September.

Between April and June 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 883,000 people were on contracts that do not guarantee work.

This is 2.2% lower than the figure from the same period in 2016.

People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be young, part-time, women or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment.

Background: Half of Scots graduates 'underemployed', survey suggests

Graduation ceremony

Half of Scots who graduated from university and some college courses in the past five years are working in "non-graduate" jobs, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics in August.

A survey by the ONS suggested 52% are in jobs which do not require further or higher education qualifications.

The figure for the UK was a whole was 46.4%.

Lib Dem MSP calls for Skills Development Scotland to be decentralised

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott says Sir Ian Wood's report was and remains right.

Mr Scott calls for Skills Development Scotland to be decentralised.

He calls for a more flexible and adaptable, closer support.

The Lib Dem MSP says national programmes could be locally interpreted and implemented.

And this is the Lib Dems amendment

Lib Dems amendment text
Scottish parliament

Zero-hours contracts should not be classed as positive destination

Labour MSP Iain Gray

Labour MSP Iain Gray calls for more young women to be encouraged into STEM apprenticeships, stating this will not change without intensified efforts.

"We have to be more rigourous about how we measure success", he says.

Turning to zero-hours contracts, he notes 36% of zero-hours contracts UK-wide are filled by young people.

He argues these contract should not be classed as a positive destination.

"This is not developing the young workforce - it is exploiting them."

Labour MSP welcomes the seven year strategy and yearly reporting

Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray

Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray says the Wood Report posited a profound change and he says the danger is that it is done half heartedly.

Mr Gray says a consistent and concerted effort is required to bring the Wood Report recommendations.

He says he welcomes the seven year strategy and yearly reporting.

Here is Labour's amendment

Labour amendment text
Scottish parliament

Conservatives call for more vocational training opportunities

Tory MSP Liz Smith

Tory MSP Liz Smith says there must be as much emphasis on the need to acquire new knowledge as well as boost skills in the curriculum for excellence.

There is a need to reflect more on the recommendations of Sir Ian Wood on vocational training, she says, adding that Scotland has not taken advantage of the incentives that could stem from alternative routes of learning.

Ms Smith points to Newlands Junior College, which supports pupils aged 14-16 who have been disengaged from education, as a positive example of diverse learning.

She welcomes the recent decision by the Scottish government to provide more part-time college places, stating it allows college to be more responsive to the needs of the local economies.

Background: Reducing youth unemployment

Apprentices at work

The Scottish government published its Developing the Young Workforce strategy in 2014 with the target of reducing the level of youth unemployment by 40% by 2021.

It was based on the recommendations made by the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, chaired by Sir Ian Wood.

Recommendations inlcuded:

  • strengthening the links between schools, colleges and employers
  • continuing to develop schemes to strengthen learning in the workplace
  • supporting vulnerable youngsters on the path to finding a job

Tory MSP warmly welcomes the government motion

Conservative MSP Liz Smith
Conservative MSP Liz Smith

Conservative MSP Liz Smith says she warmly welcomes what the Scottish government has said in its motion.

Ms Smith says employers want a strength in numeracy and literacy first and foremost.

She says some employers say they have to spend money topping up these skills.

Here is the Tory motion


School curriculum must embed strategy

Young workesr

Jamie Hepburn commits to increasing contributions to dental and management apprenticeships.

Ensuring equality of access to apprenticeships is key, the ministers states, and he highlights the recently-published updates equality impact assessment for the strategy.

Long-term change will only come from embedding the strategy in the school curriculum, he says, and points to its alignment with Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC).

Mr Hepburn says the government will continue to promote the strategy to all employers.

Minister announces 28,000 apprenticeship starts next year

Mr Hepburn
Mr Hepburn

Mr Hepburn says the target for modern apprenticeshipsof 26,000 has been exceeded.

The employment and training minister says there has been progress but more must be made.

He announces 28,000 apprenticeship starts next year.

The minister says new graduate level opportunites will be introduced and there will be enhancments to modern apprenticeships.

He says the government has set a target of halving the disability employment gap.

The rural supplement will be extended across all rural communities.

Background: Developing the Young Workforce Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy

Young workforce

The Scottish government committed to annual reporting on progress of the Developing the

Young Workforce Programme.

According to the government this third annual report covers academic year 2016/17 and highlights early progress made in the first part of academic year 2017/18.

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) is Scotland’s youth employment strategy and through DYW, we aim to reduce youth unemployment levels by 40% by 2021.

The strategy aims to create an excellent, work relevant education offer to young people in Scotland, giving them the skills for the current and anticipated jobs market.

Scotland has one of best youth employment records in Europe

Employment Minister Jamie Hepburn notes that 2018 marks the Year of Young People, as well as the halfway point for the Developing the Young Workforce strategy.

The target to reduce youth employment by 40% from 2014 levels by 2021 has been met four years early, he says.

We are among the best performers in the EU for youth employment, Mr Hepburn adds.

Employment Minister Jamie Hepburn

The minister says employers must be at the heart of the strategy and he highlights the expansion of apprenticeships.

Over 2,500 foundation apprenticeships will be started in schools this year, he says.

Background: Scottish youth unemployment rates outperform rest of UK

Official figures released in December indicated Scotland's unemployment rate increased by 0.3% to 4.1%, which was below the UK rate of 4.3%.

Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn said: "While these latest figures show that employment is up by 1.7 percentage points over the year, it is disappointing to see a slight fall in employment and a slight rise in unemployment over the last quarter.

"However, our overall unemployment rate remains lower than the UK's, and it is also encouraging to see youth unemployment rates continuing to outperform the rest of the UK."

Young worker
Getty Images

MSPs debate the young workforce


Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn gets the debate underway.

Coming up this afternoon.....................

Young workers

After lunch MSPs will return to the chamber to discuss the third annual report on developing the young workforce.

Government will work to improve uptake of the initiative

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell points the engagement with carers on bringing forward an improving Scottish government policy.

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 is highlighted and she says Carer Positive's work is complimented by the legislation.

Carers struggle to look after their own health and well-being when juggling both caring responsibilities and employment, she notes.

The minister highlights that Carers' Allowance will be increased to match Jobseekers Allowance in summer to better support unpaid carers.

While commending those organisations who are already accredited as carer positive, she agrees there is much more which can be done.

Government officials are engaging with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to increase the number of private sector employers taking part in the initiative, she says.

Ms Campbell says there is a strong business case for doing so, including retaining skills.

Carer Positive's facts and and figures

  • There are around 760,000 unpaid carers in Scotland, with this figure forecast to increase significantly as the population ages.
  • Around 270,000 people are estimated to be juggling work with caring responsibilities – as many as 1 in 8 of the workforce
  • As people work longer, more and more of the workforce are taking on the dual roles of working and caring
  • Without the right support in the workplace, a significant number of carers leave paid employment – this has implications for the individuals, their families and employers
  • With the right support, employers retain skilled and valuable staff, and all employees benefit from a healthier and more productive working environment

'Unpaid carers are unsung heroes'

Tory MSP Jeremey Balfour
Tory MSP Jeremey Balfour

Tory MSP Jeremey Balfour says: "Unpaid carers are unsung heroes."

Mr Balfour says: "If it wasn't for a carer today I wouldn't be standing here because I need help getting dressed, every morning."

"Unpaid, done voluntarily."

He says carers say it can be rewarding to help someone else but it can often be difficult and upsetting, leading to stress, worry, isolation, depression and anger and guilt.

Mr Balfour says: "Carer Positive is a win, win, win."