Rhoda’s speech in the Scottish Parliament debate
22 November 2018
The text of her speech :
I thank the committee for its reports and for shining a light on why our economy has grown so slowly.
There are strong, practical recommendations in the reports that should be considered by the Government.
James Kelly talked about the co-operative model that was mentioned in the report.
That is close to my heart, as I am a member of the Co-operative Party. Richard Leonard talked about both employee-owned and co-operative models.
They boost productivity and economic growth, which was highlighted in the report, and they provide better conditions and security for workers.
The topic of precarious work has come up in the debate—in Johann Lamont’s intervention and in James Kelly’s remarks, when he spoke in some depth about the issues that young people face, such as working three jobs to try to make a living.
Some of those jobs will have zero-hours contracts and others will be precarious because young people have very few rights in the labour market, which is an issue that we must address.
We must also address how we support our indigenous businesses.
I have been approached by people from local companies who have built up a trade and wish to retire and are looking for models to make sure that the business stays in local hands and continues to contribute to the local economy.
Too often those businesses are picked off and asset stripped for their contracts and the local workforce is left on its own.
We need to make sure that indigenous businesses get as much support as others.
A rather shocking statistic mentioned in the debate is that over a third of the Scottish economy is overseas owned.
Willie Rennie pointed out that that means that many of the financial incentives that are paid out will go to those overseas companies.
We should surely be looking to retain some of those incentives to support our own businesses, because it is clear that, when times get tough, if a person is rooted to where they are working, they are much more likely to stay and try to weather the storm, instead of moving away.
James Kelly highlighted, in the debate and at First Minister’s Question Time, that the 2 Sisters Group has received £500,000 of Government funding—
Will the member take an intervention?
I am mindful that, on 3 September, I sent a 32-page response to the committee’s report. Notwithstanding Rhoda Grant’s comments, could she confirm which of the recommendations in the report, which I have responded to, she thinks that I have failed to deliver on?
There are many and I hope to touch on them as I continue my remarks, as they were raised in the debate.
I will finish my point about James Kelly’s comments regarding the 2 Sisters Group.
The Government has given it £500,000.
Could that money not have been given to the workforce to try to save the business or to grow another business in its place?
Would the money not have been better spent that way, which would have enabled the employees to remain in their own communities?
James Kelly also spoke about procurement.
We need to use that to support local companies and to promote a real living wage.
One of the other shocking statistics that came out in the debate was that 470,000 people are receiving less than the living wage.
The living wage is what it has been proven that people need to live to a reasonable standard.
Those people are living below a standard that we would deem to be acceptable.
That is not right in a modern Scotland.
Angela Constance talked about inclusive growth.
It is important that we look at how women are treated in the workforce.
The value given to female entrepreneurs was talked about in the report.
I was at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association women’s conference, and women entrepreneurs were making presentations to the group.
What was stark about what they were saying was that most of them could not find work that would fit with their caring responsibilities, so they set up their own companies so that they could make a living.
In turn, they employed other women and made sure that their conditions were flexible.
There is a lot to be done, and setting up a business should not be seen as a last resort but as something that we encourage people to do, as it creates wealth in our communities.
Another issue touched on in the report and in the debate was automation, and the challenges and opportunities that automation can bring to build a high-wage and high-skilled economy.
It can boost productivity as well, and the report says that skills are crucial for the capitalisation of those developments.
Yet we see that companies do not have digital and automation skills.
We need to reskill our whole workforce.
When I met the Scottish Retail Consortium this morning and talked about apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy, I was concerned that the consortium was clear that apprenticeships were not working properly, certainly in the retail sector.
The average age for a start in that sector was 27 years of age, usually because the sector’s hours were more family friendly.
Those people could not access apprenticeships because of their age.
That is not right—we need to look at reskilling and making sure that our workforce is ready for the future.
The Presiding Officer is looking at me as if I should be winding up.
I must emphasise that the economy is hugely important, because, without a vibrant economy, we cannot do the things that we want to do, such as tackling poverty and health inequality and creating a country that we can all be proud of.