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Employability and Skills: Taking forward our National Conversation

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Annex C The Government's Purpose

1. The Purpose of this Scottish Government is clear:

To focus the government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

2. The Scottish Government believes that only independence will give Scotland the full flexibility to significantly increase sustainable economic growth, tackle poverty, income inequality and help those people who can work achieve their potential through employment.

3. The Government Economic Strategy 15, published in 2007, set out the scale of the challenge in putting Scotland on to a higher sustainable growth path and the targets that have been set to help meet that challenge. To achieve increased sustainable economic growth, Scotland needs to drive up its performance in relation to three key components: productivity, participation and population. This growth should also satisfy three desired characteristics - solidarity, cohesion and sustainability. The Scottish Government has set outcome focused targets relating to all these areas. These are defined as follows:

  • Solidarity, Cohesion and Participation are the ones most related to tackling poverty, income inequality and economic inactivity in Scotland.
  • Solidarity: to increase overall income and the proportion of income earned by the three lowest income deciles as a group by 2017;
  • Participation: to maintain Scotland's position on labour market participation as the top performing country in the UK and close the gap with the top five OECD economies by 2017;
  • Cohesion: to narrow the gap in participation between Scotland's best and worst performing regions by 2017.

Participation and Cohesion

4. Stimulating economic activity (participation) and reducing the disparity between the regions of Scotland (cohesion) aims to increase economic growth and ensure that that growth is shared across Scotland.

5. The Participation and Cohesion targets set by this Government relate to labour market participation - both for Scotland and narrowing the gap between Scotland's best and worst performing regions.

6. The Scottish Government and Scottish partners influence some of the key factors affecting an individual's employability, including skills, healthcare and provision of childcare (including care for disabled children), as well as the capacity of further and higher education and the third sector to deliver the right kind of training effectively.

7. However, other major factors affecting employability, such as social security benefits, help with the cost of childcare, pension's policy (such as retirement age) and employment support are reserved to the UK Parliament. These services reserved to the UK Parliament do not always fit well with the systems devolved to Scotland. As the recent economic downturn has demonstrated they are often unresponsive to rapidly changing needs and, even when there is progress, it is often too slow to be effective.

8. This is a complex landscape. The Scottish Government believes that the operation of these different levels places significant barriers in the way of a Scottish Government wishing to tackle poverty and address employability in Scotland.