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Employability and Skills: Taking forward our National Conversation

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Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning

This is an important time in Scotland's history. This Government believes that independence is the right option to enable Scotland, and her people, to fulfil their potential. This paper takes forward the National Conversation on employability and skills and I hope it will be a useful contribution to that debate.

This Government is ambitious for Scotland. We want a Scotland which can meet its full economic potential, where individuals are equipped to make a strong contribution and where poverty is a thing of the past. We want a Scotland which is equipped to succeed in the modern global economy and where people who can work are supported to do so.

These ambitions must be achieved if we want Scotland to be a society of which we can all be proud - if we want our nation to be a rich country and a rich society. To achieve this we believe the people of Scotland must have the freedom to design, implement and benefit from an employability and skills system that suits our evolving needs. This should include the ability to align benefits, tax credits and employment services fully with Scotland's skills, lifelong learning, education, childcare and health services. These can be delivered most effectively in Scotland by fully focusing on the needs, aspirations and expectations of all our people.

Many people striving to lift themselves and their families out of poverty come up against barriers within the monolithic UK-wide benefits system which prevent them and their families from connecting or reconnecting with the mainstream economy. Only by removing these barriers and by fully integrating the benefits system with Scotland's skills and lifelong learning system can sustainable positive outcomes be achieved.

For those who are in work it is essential that any necessary support is in place to ensure they make the fullest contribution to the success of their organisation. This includes effective childcare and healthcare services, a system of social protection which underpins the development of a modern flexible workforce and a range of opportunities to improve skills throughout our lives. Other reserved issues such as employment law, health & safety regulation and equalities legislation have a direct impact the working lives of people across Scotland, a fact highlighted by the Educational Institute for Scotland in its response to Choosing Scotland's Future.

For our young people, it is essential that they are encouraged to participate in learning - and to continue learning beyond their compulsory schooling. Although the numbers of young people who are able to claim benefits in their own right are relatively small, those young people are often the most vulnerable and current systems make their choices much more complicated.

The National Conversation provides all of Scotland's people with the opportunity to think about the sort of country they want Scotland to be. We welcome all views. We have the ability to design and build a fairer, stronger Scotland - and that is an opportunity we must seize.