Speaking in today’s debate on the Scottish economy, Scottish Labour’s Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:
“Our focus for the economy must be forward looking. We know that the Scotland of tomorrow will not be like the Scotland of today.
“But the one thing we have as our greatest asset for tomorrow is our people – the human capital that can drive economic success. If we all agree with that, then this is about what we do to invest in them, to invest in their potential.
“So that means the very best start in life, the best opportunities in school, access to further and higher education and lifelong learning. Education is an economic issue.
“Kezia Dugdale visited Selex yesterday to talk about engineering jobs in the future. Engineering UK estimate that Scotland will need nearly 150,000 new engineers by 2022. That could result in a £1.7billion bonus to our economy. So why is it that a pre engineering course being offered at Dumbarton Academy is being cancelled by West College. I hope the Cabinet Secretary will agree that this is very shortsighted and driven by financial considerations more than the needs of the local economy.
“Employers complain about having a pipeline of skilled people. The jobs of the future need investment now, particularly in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths. But we need to invest in the classroom in basic literacy and numeracy.
“There is little to celebrate when the attainment gap is 12% in reading, 21% in writing and 24% in maths. This harms our economy. The attainment fund announced by the SNP is welcome but it needs to be made a budget priority as well as a political one.
“Just contrast the approach of the SNP when they say that they will cancel £250million of air passenger duty in a year with investing just £25million in closing the attainment gap. Ten times more on cutting taxes than investing in our children and the future.
“Our approach to the economy is about investing in skills, not cutting taxes.”