£33m will be invested to support people back to work, says Sturgeon
By Bill Heaney
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this morning’s publication of the latest employment figures are the first to include any of the period of the Covid-19 crisis.
They show that 113,000 people in Scotland are now unemployed, she says.
The latest figures on the labour market point to a huge increase in people claiming unemployment benefit in Scotland.
Across the UK in April, claimants went up by 856,500, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.
Its figures suggest the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Scotland increased by 66.9% – which would be up about 75,000 to 188,000.
The FM said the figures underline the need for further government support, with the current public health measures causing an economic emergency.
She told the daily media briefing the job retention scheme has offered some relief, but many people will be very worried about the future of their livelihoods.
She said that is why more than £2.3 billion had been allocated to support businesses and protect livelihoods and why so many measures from the UK government have been so warmly welcomed.
Skills Development Scotland has expanded its support by establishing a phone line and online service. The online service has received 120,000 visits since its launch.
And the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board will coordinate rapid action to ensure actions help equip people with the skills needed for the future.
It would report back in June, added the FM, who confirmed a further £33 million will be invested to support people back to work as the economy gradually opens up again.
Most of the funding would be allocated to Fair Start Scotland and would focus on those adversely affected: young people, disabled people and lone parents.
A national emergency can be a time of great opportunity as well as a threat to the job market, careers expert Corinne Mills told BBC Radio Scotland.
With unemployment already on the rise and expected to increase further, she says: “Professionally, you are going to survive this time better if you are agile, good to spot the opportunities and go for it with as much positivity and derring-do that you possibly can.
“Whatever it is you have done in the past, you need to take a hard-headed look to see whether it is going to be needed in the future or if it will be needed in a different way.”
The managing director of Personal Career Management suggests “everything technological” will be the growth area, pointing to skill shortages in areas like cyber security.
“This is a time of great disruption and national emergency,” she adds. “You might not want to be stacking shelves in a supermarket or working in the community in 10 years’ time, but they are needed now and will show what you were willing to do in a time of crisis.”
Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP council in West Dunbartonshire refused to comment on the figures.
Taxi owners want the government to intervene and allow them to install protective screens in their vehicles.
The drivers’ trade association wants to use a crash-tested screen design which has been approved by insurance companies and which is already allowed by some English councils.
No official guidance has been given.
Barry Sloan, the Glasgow rep for United Private Hire Drivers, was shocked by the deaths and is now demanding that something is done to protect private hire drivers across Scotland.
Local taxi drivers are asking for urgent clarity on anti-coronavirus measures for private hire cabs.
But once again, Cllr Jonathan McColl, the SNP leader on West Dunbartonshire Council, which is the licensing authority for taxis has refused to comment.
On care homes, such as Crosslet House, a senior Highland councillor has said there needs to be a radical change to the way care is provided for older people in the region as a result of lessons being learned from the coronavirus pandemic.
Linda Munro, chairwoman of Highland Council’s health and care committee, believes more emphasis should be placed on care at home and in the community.
She said there will always need to be care homes, but more care should be delivered to older people in their own homes.
About a third of deaths from Covid-19 in the NHS Highland area have been in care homes. Ms Munro says the local authority should help to change to care services.
Cllr McColl, leader of West Dunbartonshire Council’ SNP administration refuses to comment on anything to do with care homes.
Meanwhile, hand dermatitis is on the rise during the Covid-19 lockdown, consultant dermatologist Dr Vishal Madan has revealed.
He said that this is because of the frequent hand washing recommended to stop the spread of coronavirus and the increased use of potential irritants such as hand gels.
People are, however, showering less. But Dr Madan is not concerned as “showering is a luxury and doing it once, twice or three times a week, that’s fine”.
He added: “If you’re doing it more than once a day, I think that can have a detrimental effect on the skin.”
Dr Madan explained that showering too much can remove the oils that protect the skin and harbour good bacteria and can lead to conditions like eczema.
Government looking at how pharmacists can prescribe the pill
Green MSP Alison Johnstone is seeking to extend the minor ailments service to allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense contraceptives.
Currently, the pill can only be accessed for free with a prescription from a GP. Ms Johnstone says the change will ease the pressure on the NHS and GP services.
Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said the amendment is not necessary as the Scottish government is already looking at making contraceptives available through the minor ailments service.
He says the scoping exercise has highlighted some safety and legal issues which need to be dealt with. “It’s not a straightforward policy to deliver,” he added.
The Green amendment was defeated by six votes to three.
The UK and world economy is “just at the beginning” of a transformation that in many ways “we don’t even remotely understand”, warns chartered financial analyst Louise Cooper.
“Global supply chains – the idea that you can save a bit of money by sourcing in China rather than having a local supplier – I think that is gone,” she tells BBC Radio Scotland. “The security of your supplier for a business will be much more important.
“Working from home, working remotely, cycling to work rather than taking public transport. There are so many ways this is going to change our lives. This is a fundamental shift in so many ways.
“The potential to make our economy greener, the potential for women – because of the opportunity for flexible work and working from home. Women have been arguing for this for a very long time and businesses, predominantly run by men, have said no, we need you in the office.
“It would change a lot in society. I would be delighted if more flexibility in the workplace leads to a reduction in the gender pay gap.”
Should cruise ships dock in Clyde during pandemic?
Pictures by Bill Heaney
Inverclyde Council will discuss the potential docking of cruise ships on the Clyde during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The area’s port operators have had requests to lay-up cruise ships with skeleton staff at Greenock and other sites.
Councillors are opposed due to the pressure that could be put on health services by an outbreak among crews.
But Peel Ports said there was no reason to treat cruise ships with minimal staff differently to cargo ships.
It comes as Inverclyde remains the worst-hit council area in terms of deaths involving coronavirus.
Police Scotland has been reported to the Health and Safety Executive by the body which represents rank-and-file officers over the use of breath tests.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said it was concerned that officers could be exposed to Covid-19 while conducting drink drive tests.
The federation claims testing urine samples would be a “safer alternative”.
But Police Scotland said it is “meeting, and often exceeding, the relevant guidelines”.
The force said it was following the advice and direction of bodies including the HSE and Health Protection Scotland (HPS), and applying a “comprehensive operational policing risk assessment”.
Among the guidelines issued to officers is to conduct all roadside breath tests outside whilst wearing masks and gloves, with the option to use tougher protective equipment if there are concerns a person might have coronavirus.
Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “We follow the advice and direction of HPS, the HSE and the National Police Chief’s Council and apply a comprehensive operational policing risk assessment when developing guidance for officers and staff.
“Police Scotland is meeting, and often exceeding, the relevant guidelines.”
Ms Taylor added that the force recognises its “moral, ethical and legal duty to the safety and welfare of our officers and staff”.
The chief executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) a pilot programme could allow some jury trials to resume in “the early summer.”
Eric McQueen told a virtual meeting of Holyrood’s Justice Committee it is anticipated that by next March there could be a backlog of 3,000 trials at the High Court and sheriff courts, both of which sit in Dumbarton, if social distancing requirements were still in place.
He told MSPs a short-term working group chaired by Scotland’s second most senior judge, Lady Dorrian, is looking at ways to enable this to happen.
These include courts using smaller juries and increasing sentencing the powers of sheriffs, both of which would require legislative change.
But he said discussions had also taken place about splitting juries across more than one room and even allowing juries to hear cases by video link from a remote location