Amid all the controversy over Brexit and Scotland’s marked vote to Remain, the country’s skills investment programme has quietly continued. However, the leader of the opposition north of the border, Conservaitve MSP Ruth Davidson has urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to protect the funds raised by the Apprenticeship Levy, due to come into force in April next year.
“Nicola Sturgeon has shown how little she cares for vocational education by gutting Scotland’s colleges and cutting 152,000 college places,” Davidson said on a visit to Scottish Gas in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.
“She’s about to be handed millions of pounds from Scottish firms to spend on skills training – she needs to make clear that money will be used to develop a skilled workforce.”
Davidson said she was determined to make Scotland “the skills capital of Europe”, and set out a 15-point plan for use of the Levy cash, including a commitment to ensure it is used for in-work training only.
“We believe every penny of this new funding must be spent on boosting training for workers.
“Scottish companies are contributing millions of pounds but the Scottish Government won’t tell them how that money is going to be spent or how it will benefit their businesses.
“We can’t allow the SNP to siphon off these funds to pay for pet projects.
‘Government must act now’
Davidson’s Conservative colleague Liam Kerr, who speaks for the party on skills and training issues, backed up his leader’s point, saying: “Businesses across Scotland are telling us that they want to hire more people – but they are also warning that they can’t find people with the skills required.
“We now have the chance to invest in Scotland’s workers. That means 35,000 apprenticeships by 2021 and new training for current workers whose skills need updating.
“That includes many older workers who are currently barred from taking on a modern apprenticeship. Thousands of experienced workers, particularly in the north-east, need help to re-skill – and Government must act now to support them.”