By Democrat reporter
The Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference has today adopted a package of proposals designed to boost the economy and help Scotland to put the recovery from the pandemic first, with a focus on skills and long-term career advice, new graduate placements with small businesses, new retraining grants for people who need them, and enabling more employee and community ownership of businesses.
The conference voted to adopt the policy paper Business and Employment – Now and for the Future, authored by economy and fair work spokesperson Katy Gordon, below right, which notes “The serious costs borne by all in society, but particularly by the young, during the pandemic” and sets out a twenty-point plan for putting recovery first, including:
Developing a national accredited internship programme for graduates to include short term, “bite sized” placements with Scotland’s SMEs:
- Providing funding for a training bond coupled to careers advice that can be used to support people of all ages to pay for further skills development throughout their career;
- Expanding the apprenticeship programme with colleges, universities and businesses to enable more young people to access places, particularly in target sectors such as low carbon, care, education and artificial intelligence;
- Reforming business rates to take the burden off high street retailers and allowing them to compete with online rivals;
- Encouraging enterprise agencies to recognise the value (beyond traditional economic measures) of more diverse sectors such as care and education.
Scottish Liberal Democrat economy and fair work spokesperson Katy Gordon said: “After years of division over referendums and the shock of the pandemic, the Scottish economy is fragile. Businesses need greater certainty to face the future and workers need reassurances that they will not be allowed to fall through the cracks.
“Unfortunately, even before the pandemic the Scottish Government was not doing enough to ensure that everyone could get ahead in life. Scottish Liberal Democrats have long argued that the Government should be using its procurement powers to ensure fair wages and conditions throughout the supply chain.
“We have also been critical of the Government’s willingness to pay out millions in economic support to firms like Amazon while letting down small businesses. Under these proposals our high streets will be able to compete on a level playing field with online rivals.
“If Scotland is to recover from the pandemic, we need to ensure that everyone has a chance to thrive. That means getting talented graduates into small businesses, ensuring that education and retraining are available for life and using the power of the Scottish Government to boost small business.”
Party leader Willie Rennie added: “This election is about putting the recovery first. Scottish Liberal Democrats have a whole host of proposals for boosting the Scottish economy and ensuring that everyone has the dignity and security of a well-paying job.”
Willie Rennie will use his speech to the party’s virtual spring conference to say that the Scottish Liberal Democrats can make the difference at the forthcoming election, depriving the SNP of a majority and putting the recovery first.
Mr Rennie is expected to say: “The Liberal Democrats can make the difference at the next election. We can make gains in every region. We can win new seats.
“The Conservatives can’t. They have replaced Ruth Davidson, who was popular, with Boris Johnson’s choice of leader who is not. Their tide is running away. They are set to lose seats. Every poll says so.
“Anas Sarwar will take time to find his feet. So Labour are unlikely to make the necessary progress on their own. And the Greens will always back the SNP when they need them.
“The Liberal Democrats, with our plan to put recovery first, are ready to win more seats.
“Our gains will make the difference between a government that can do whatever it wants, however damaging, and a government that has to listen. I am ready with a decade of experience leading the Liberal Democrats in Scotland.
“Rebuilding our party with wins in Holyrood, Westminster, Europe and by-elections. Working with others to win in parliament on education on mental health and on the budget. “