Increase in number of Modern Apprenticeships

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(Credit: paisleyscotland)

The Scottish Government has increased the number of Modern Apprenticeships available to young people, in a continued effort to support youth employment.

Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships are jobs which allow people to work and learn, mostly targeted at those who have just left school, or will be leaving soon. They are a way to gain skills and qualifications, and be given the opportunity to start a career, without having to study full-time.

Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn announced that more than 29,000 people will benefit from Modern Apprenticeships next year. The target includes Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships and means Scotland is on course to reach its longstanding commitment of 30,000 new apprenticeships each year by 2020. The 2018/19 target of 28,000 new Modern Apprentices is on course to be achieved, with 27,145 people starting Modern Apprenticeships in 2017/18, surpassing the initial target of 27,000.

Mr Hepburn said: “It is vital we continue to develop Scotland’s young workforce to meet the emerging needs and opportunities of our employers and economy. That is why we are expanding the number of Modern Apprenticeship places available to 29,000 next year, meaning even more people can access a wide variety of work-based learning.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for all employers to invest in their workforce and provide the skills the economy needs now and in the future. The Scottish Government are funding more apprentices than ever before and we remain firmly on track to achieve our ambitious target of 30,000 new apprenticeship starts by 2020.”

Around 1,300 Graduate Apprenticeships will be available across 13 different subject, with 5,000 Foundation Apprenticeships available for secondary school pupils to choose alongside their other school subjects. Scottish Apprenticeship Week (which ends today) is a nationwide campaign aimed at encouraging employers to take on apprentices. The year’s theme is ‘Skills for the Future’, recognising the importance of investing in the workforce.

If you have an interest in becoming an apprentice, click here for information on applying.

Scottish Government launches closed road motorsport consultation

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Motorsport events could be held on closed public roads in Scotland (Photo Credit: Luke Barry)

Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government have launched a public consultation on proposals to enable motorsport to be held on closed public roads.

Legislation currently exists in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that allows car clubs and organising teams to run a motorsport event on public roads at the discretion of the sport’s governing body, Motorsport UK.

The same legislation has been stalled in Scotland due to a joint Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) looking into the deaths of spectators on the 2013 Snowman and 2014 Jim Clark rallies.

The legislation allows event organisers to close off sections of road for a period of five hours and also suspend the speed limit on them, meaning they can be driven at competition speed.

A public consultation has now been launched to gauge whether it’s feasible for events of this nature to be held on closed Scottish public roads. The consultation is open until January 28, and can be completed here.

Closed road events have been held in Scotland before, with the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders running annually since 1997. Following a fatal accident in 2014 however, the event has ceased to run as investigations were launched into the incident. The rally previously held its own unique Act of Parliament but event insurers have been unwilling to support a return under the old legislation.

Tom Purves, the Chairman of Scottish Motor Sports (SMS) is looking forward to events like this returning to Scotland.

“This is an important step on the road back to closed road motorsport in Scotland,”

“It is now vital that the Scottish motorsport community gets behind this consultation and delivers a clear message of support for these proposals, which would allow us not only to revive world-renowned events but also to take different forms of motorsport to new parts of our country.”

Edinburgh Cyclists to get head start at traffic lights

Under new council plans announced today, cyclists will get a head start at traffic light junctions along the tram route.

These new traffic lights that would go green for riders before other traffic would be installed at 14 different sites along the tram route. These same lights are already in use at the Leith Walk/ McDonald Road junction.Plans follow the red cycle lanes for riders to cross tramlines more safely installed last autumn.

The tram route running down Princes Street is one of the busiest with cyclists. Credit: Calum McRobert @ Geograph.org

The work was triggered after the death of Malaysian student Zhi Min Soh, whose bike wheels became caught in tram tracks last May at the junction of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street. These plans are also part of a public consultation which launched on the council website today and will run unitl the 11th of April.If approved the lights will be expected to be implemented towards the end of the year.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes stated,

“With the first phase of cycle safety improvements already in place – and, according to our feedback, well-received by cyclists – and the second phase just weeks away from being implemented, we’re now looking to the public for feedback on our proposed designs for phase three, which we aim to put in place later this year.”

“Road safety is absolutely paramount and we’ve been working extremely closely with our partners to refine these designs.”

Early release signals for cyclists have been credited with reducing collisions in cities where they’re already used so these are a particularly desirable option.The council have said a fourth and final phase would involve changes to the road layout at the Princes Street/Lothian Road/Shandwick Place/Queensferry Street/Hope Street junction to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike.

 

Cabinet Reshuffle promotes women and ethnic minorities

Theresa May has created her own generation of Tory ‘rising stars’ as her cabinet shuffle reached its conclusion yesterday.

The Prime Minister has brought in fresh talent across her cabinet, including an increase in the number of female and ethnic minority cabinet ministers.

She stated that her new government now looks ‘more like the country it serves’, after axing a number of white male MP’s over 50, and bringing in younger, female members from minority backgrounds. She insisted that this move will help her focus more on important issues such as health, housing and social care in the UK.

After these decisions yesterday, female representation in Parliament has risen from 25% to 30% and the number of female MP’s has now risen from 30 to 37, and minority MP’s from 4 to 9.

The future of Scotland’s island wind farms in Government hands

The UK Government will decide whether or not to subsidise wind farms in the Scottish Western and Northern Isles.

The Conservative 2015 election manifesto vowed to end support for onshore wind farms, and since have reaffirmed plans to spend £730m on alternative forms of renewable energy.

There will be a consultation to find out if island wind developments should be treated differently to those on the mainland.

UK business and energy secretary, Greg Clark said, “We are sending a clear signal that Britain is one of the best places in the world to invest in clean, flexible, energy – as we continue to upgrade our energy infrastructure. This is a key part of our upcoming Industrial Strategy, which will provide companies with the further support they need to innovate as we build a diverse energy system fit for the 21st century that is reliable, while keeping bills down for our families and businesses.”

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Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said, “The wave and tidal sectors are still at an incredibly early stage in their development, and simply not ready to compete with offshore wind on cost alone.

“If we want to continue the development of the UK’s world-leading wave and tidal sectors, then we now need government to look at how it will support the development and roll-out of the technology to get it to the stage where it can compete in the future.”

The renewable energy company said island communities would be left “bitterly disappointed” by the low level of support announced by the government.

Despite challenges from anti-wind campaigners, Shetland Island will see developments of the 460MW Viking Wind Farm. The project was reaffirmed in February 2015. Other island developments are also currently in place.

 

New scheme to help women get back into work announced

A new scheme has been announced today that will help women get back into work.

The scheme will help retrain woman who have taken an extended break from their careers and put them back to work.

This comes on the same day that it was revealed that the gender pay gap is closing, decreasing to 6.2% – down from 7.7% in 2015.

Scottish Government has awarded nearly £50,000 to Equate Scotland to help fund their Women Returners Project. The Project is to initially provide support to 40 women in the form of one to one guidance, career clinics, webinars and three-month placements that will be focussed on life sciences, digital skills and engineering.

Minister of Employability, Jamie Hepburn announced the plans at the SSE in Glasgow saying, “These latest figures show we are making some progress to narrow the gender pay gap in Scotland, and in comparison to the UK we are leading the way in gender and pay equality in the workplace.

“While Scotland continues to outperform the UK as a whole on female employment and is making inroads on tackling the gender pay gap, there is still more to do. With our funding for the Women Returners Project, improving the availability of childcare and flexible working, and promoting the Living Wage, we hope to close the gender gap once and for all.”

Talat Yaqoob, Director of Equate Scotland said, ““We are delighted that the Scottish Government is investing in our original pilot and we know this will make a difference to women and Scotland’s economy.”

 

 

MPs argue to postpone Tax Credit Cuts

 

 

 

MPs tell Osborne to postpone Tax Credits. Image courtesy of: Flikr/altogetherfool

MPs tell Osborne to postpone Tax Credits. Image courtesy of: Flikr/altogetherfool

 

MPs have said that George Osbourne should postpone the proposed tax credit cuts for a year to enable a balanced debate over the issue.

The planned cuts were rejected by the House of Lords, leading the chancellor to outline a reformed plan in his upcoming Autumn Statement in an attempt to lessen the impact of the cuts.

The Work and Pension’s Committee have said that there is no “magic bullet” to protect low paid workers from the proposed cuts.

MPs have also accused the Treasury of being “Unacceptably evasive” as they have yet to outline how the different income groups will be effected.

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the “architect” of tax credits, has warned that these changes will “plunge almost another million families into poverty.”

There are also arguments that the cuts will undermine the benefits system, which is ironic as Mr Osborne announced his plans to cut £4.4bn from the tax credits system as part of plans to save £12bn from the welfare bill.

The changes are due to take effect in April 2016, though opponents are still arguing against these plans, saying that more than one million existing recipients – many of whom work but are on low incomes – will be some £1,300 a year worse off as a result.

The government argues that the majority will benefit from other policies due to the increase in the personal income tax allowance and the introduction of the National Living Wage.

The committee overlooking the credit plans argue, “The benefits to those who are helped are generally dwarfed by the cuts, especially in 2016-17.” By 2020-21, 78% of families will be on average £1,500 worse off in real terms, according to their report.

MPs have also cautioned Mr Osborne to “resist the temptation to raid Universal Credit” to pay for various tax credit adjustments. There are concerns that it would “either shift the burden to different low-income families or undermine the objective of making work pay”.

The committee of MPs have stated that they believe, “One of three things has to give: the impact on poverty, work incentives or the cost.

“We recommend that if, indeed, the effects cannot be satisfactorily mitigated, the government pause any reforms to tax credits until 2017-18.

“This would allow a broader discussion of the options in their proper context.”

A Treasury spokesman commented on the report, saying it was “out of date” as Mr Osborne had previously said he would listen to concerns and announce a new transitional measure in his Autumn Statement.

The spokesperson said the examples cited in the report failed to consider other measures the government had introduced or was introducing to support working families.

The House of Lords’ decision to vote down the government’s plans to cut tax credits induced warnings of a “constitutional crisis”, and paved the way for a review of the Lords’ powers.

The review of the Lord’s powers is due to be published before Christmas.

 

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