'Positive indicators' on job front

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Some positive indicators on the economic front. Unemployment is down in Scotland and the number in work has risen.

You can read the basic stats for yourself on the BBC Scotland website. But perhaps I might draw a few points to your attention.

Firstly, the nature of the workforce continues to change with a net shift from public to private sector employment.

Self-evidently, the decline in the public sector is driven by enforced spending cuts.

But John Swinney, the finance secretary, notes that the private sector has more than compensated for those public sector reductions in the period under immediate scrutiny.

Indeed, Mr Swinney notes that private sector employment - at 77.5% - is now at its highest share of the labour market since the advent of devolution.

This share allocation excludes "those financial institutions temporarily defined as public sector." What a cute euphemism to sum up the continuing impact of the previous travails at RBS and HBOS.

But the point is well made: that, from necessity, the public sector is shrinking but, from policy, it appears that there is "resilience" in the Scottish private sector, to borrow an adjective from the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore.

If that switch continues - from public to private - might there be economic, social and even perhaps political or electoral consequences?

It has long been said that Scotland's collective nature has been partly shaped by our relative reliance on public sector employment.

Secondly, the reaction from politicians supporting each of Scotland's two governments. Both sides draw lessons - for the other lot.

Mr Swinney again advocates an expansion of productive capital expenditure by the UK government on, as he puts it in a much repeated phrase, "shovel ready" projects.

This, he said, was needed to sustain and boost job creation.

In return, Willie Rennie, who leads the Scottish Liberal Democrats, says Scottish ministers must now work "hand in hand" with the UK government on, for example, the youth contract.

Again, a point Mr Rennie has made more than once.

The sub-plot here, of course, is the referendum on independence.

Both nationalists and unionists want, simultaneously, to claim success for their efforts and castigate the other lot.

Not an easy trick when they are both dealing with one set of statistics.

Finally, youth unemployment.

Both sides draw attention to that, again from their own standpoint.

Mr Moore notes that the issue will feature on the agenda of the British Irish Council in Stirling this Friday. You can almost hear the emphasis on "British."

Mr Swinney cites his focus upon this aspect - and upon female unemployment - while noting how much more could be done "with the full fiscal powers of independence."