Labour Puts Employment At Heart Of Campaign

Scottish Labour would set up a new agency for employment and skills to help people get into work if elected in May, leader Kezia Dugdale will announce.

Ms Dugdale will reveal plans for a Work and Trade Union Bill to establish Skills Scotland during a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Dundee.

The agency would bring together existing bodies Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Enterprise with new powers over the Work Programme coming to the Scottish Parliament.

The Labour leader will tell trade union representatives that they will be partners in delivering the new agency and setting its strategy, as she pledges to ``give voice to working people in Parliament''.

Ms Dugdale is expected to say: ``We will bring forward a Work and Trade Union bill. It will be the antithesis of the negative Tory Trade Union Bill.

"It will recognise the positive role of trade unions in the economy, in creating better workplaces, in increasing productivity, in building a fair economy.

"And it will establish Skills Scotland, in partnership with unions and employers and co-chaired by a nominee of the STUC.

"This new agency will bring together employment services and skills services, including new powers over the Work Programme that are coming to Holyrood.

"It will aim to give anyone out of work the help they need to move into a job, but it will also aim to give everyone in work the help they need to move up, to upskill, to build the kind of economy we all want to see.

"It won't just be a radically different approach from the Tory approach to the workplace, and to those out of work, it will be a radically different approach from the SNP approach over the last few years that has seen 152,000 fewer students at our colleges.''

Under the new agency a network of regional hubs would be established to boost the local economy, provide training for people seeking work and support lifelong learning.

Labour would also back the creation of Scottish strategic sector forums to look at productivity, skills and training in key sectors such as energy, manufacturing and housing.

Ms Dugdale will say: "All parties will make promises in this election. But they cannot afford to deliver on those promises, in a time of cuts to public spending, if they do not also promise to break from austerity.

"That is why Labour's plan at this election begins with one promise above all others: any Labour Scottish Government will increase spending on public services in Scotland.''

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