As minister calls for equality...

Labour market report a ‘missed opportunity’

David LonsdaleThe Scottish government put fairness and continuing trade with the EU at the heart of its strategy for jobs, but it came under attack from small firms, the retail sector and the self-employed.

Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn said the Labour Market Strategy was a “top priority” for the Holyrood government and would urge firms to support fairness by paying at least the living wage.

But retail industry leader David Lonsdale (pictured) pointed to the “cumulative burden of government-imposed tax and regulatory costs”, while there was criticism that the report failed to address  needs of the growing number of self-employed workers.

Unveiling the strategy the during a visit to Scottish Gas’s Training Academy in Hamilton, Mr Hepburn said: “Creating a fairer society is not just a desirable goal in itself, but is essential to the sustained, long-term prosperity of the Scottish economy.

As an integral part of our Economic Strategy, today’s Labour Market Strategy outlines in more detail how our inclusive approach to the labour market will drive economic growth.”

Jane Wood, managing director of Business in the Community Scotland said: “This is a huge step forward and one which shows Scotland as leading the way globally in its commitment to responsible business. Anne Douglas, co-chair of the Fair Work Convention also welcomed the report’s central theme.

But Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said: “Whilst there is much to welcome in the strategy, the reality is that the cumulative burden of government-imposed tax and regulatory costs has mushroomed and is accelerating the pace of change affecting retail.

“Beyond this strategy, the Scottish Government can assist by ensuring firms in Scotland which pay the apprenticeship levy directly benefit from it, and by keeping a firm grip on the cost of living and on personal taxation.”

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “The strategy doesn’t pay due attention to perhaps the biggest change in the jobs market since 2008 – the quarter of a million Scots now self-employed. More needs to be done to ensure that those who work for themselves are given the right support.”

The Association for Independent Professionals and the Self Employed said the 43 page report mentioned the 300,000-strong self-employed sector just once. It said the government had “missed a massive opportunity to endorse and encourage the growing army of Scots who have joined the growing self-employed sector”.

IPSE’s senior policy advisor Adam Waters said: “We find the lack of understanding and support for this sector surprising as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and many senior figures within the party have on several occasions praised the role of the self-employed, and lauded their contribution to the Scottish economy.

“The self-employed account for 12 per cent of the Scottish workforce and the highly skilled self-employed are crucial to the success of the Scottish economy as a whole. From oil and gas to the games industry, they’re providing innovation in almost every sector and the Scottish Government urgently needs to recognise this.

“The reasons many people become self-employed are very clear. People value the freedom of being their own boss and the ability to achieve a better work life balance. The Scottish Government should be promoting self-employment as a good option for young people and focus on creating a positive environment to do business.”

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