Memorandum from the Scottish Office
Thank you for your letter of 15 September which asked
about progress relating to 4 recent reports of the Committee
for inclusion in what will be the Committee's first Annual Report.
This response follows consultation with relevant Departments and
the Scottish Executive.
Of the four reports, the first (New Deal) received
a Government reply before devolution on 1 July 1999; and,
as you recognised, the Scottish Executive is not bound by that
response. The second and third reports (Inward/Outward Investment
and Tourism) were prepared before devolution, and the Government's
replies, published after devolution, included comments by the
Scottish Executive in respect of matters which had by then become
devolved. The most recent report (Poverty) was also initiated
before devolution, and the Government's reply to the Committee's
recommendations will be sent to you very shortly. This response
focuses primarily therefore on the second and third reports, and
includes information provided by the Scottish Executive in respect
of devolved matters.
The New Deal Published 1998
The New Deal is a key element of the Government's
plans to help people move from welfare dependency into work. The
New Deal tackles the inequalities that result from unemployment
and is designed to help people move into sustainable employment
so that they can enjoy a better standard of living and better
prospects that come from being in work. The successful implementation
of the New Deal in Scotland has been founded on an effective partnership
involving, the Employment Service, the Scottish Executive and
public and private partners. The Government was grateful for the
support expressed for the New Deal by the Scottish Affairs Committee.
You asked for certain information about the recent
performance of the New Deal and about the Personal Advisors. At
end August 2000, 59,300 young people had participated in New Deal
18-24. 28,100 had found employment of which 20,800 were in sustained
employment; 17,500 were unsubsidised jobs while 3,300 were subsidised
jobs. A further 24,600 young people had participated in work experience,
full time education or training, work with the voluntary sector
or a placement with the Environmental Taskforce through a New
Deal Option. 30,000 people had participated in New Deal 25+ .
4,800 had found employment, of which 3,800 were in sustained employment.
2,800 of these jobs were unsubsidised.
The Employment Service continues to monitor Personal
Advisor caseloads to ensure that personal advisors are able to
respond effectively to the needs of clients. The ES has introduced
a number of measures to increase the effectiveness of personal
advisors which include: greater use of dedicated advisor managers;
pilots to test a new post/grade of senior advisor; measures to
reduce New Deal bureaucracy; new training products and programmes,
including a greater emphasis on refresher training for experienced
advisors; and a new quality assurance framework for advisory work.
Inward/Outward Investment 1999
I enclose at Annex A, a report by the Scottish Executive
on subsequent developments since the Committee's Report. As stated
in the Government response of December 1999, the Scottish Executive
was able to report considerable early progress on many of the
Committee's recommendations. LIS was subsequently able to report
record inward investment in 1999-00. This up-date notes further
progress towards integrating the resources of Locate in Scotland
(LIS) and Scottish Trade International (STI), and additional support
for outward investment by Scottish companies.
Tourism in Scotland 1999
I enclose at Annex B, a report by the Scottish Executive
on the current position regarding the development of tourism in
Scotland. The Government Response of April 2000 reported that
all of the recommendations relating to devolved matters had been
taken into account in the formulation of the Executive's new strategy
for Scottish Tourism. This report covers developments since publication
of the SE's Tourism Strategy including the independent management
review of the Scottish Tourist Board (STB) published on 3 November.
The Committee's report also included references to
transport within Scotland. The Office of Fair Trading completed
its investigation into vehicle fuel pricing in the Highlands and
Islands in July. The OFT found no evidence of anti-competitive
behaviour or profiteering in the wholesale or retail sale of petrol
and diesel. The price differential between the Highlands and Islands
and the rest of Scotland was found to be a result of very low
turnovers of fuel sales in sparsely populated areas and margins
charged by retailers were considered reasonable in the circumstances.
In the case of the Western Isles, however, the OFT
found that prices charged could not be fully justified on the
basis of the evidence available to them. A further investigation
is being undertaken into the situation on the Islands. Results
of the investigation are expected early in the New Year.
The Government's 10 year transport plan announced
in July placed particular attention on improving rail transport.
The Plan provides for a total of £60bn of investment, including
£29bn public funding, to be spent on improvements to the
national rail network with new track, signalling and rolling stock.
Major projects to benefit will include upgrading of the East Coast
Mainline and modernisation of the West Coast Mainline. Both projects
will greatly improve Scotland's links with the rest of the UK,
including the major international air and cross Channel hubs.
In the short term the Government and the Rail Regulator
are seeking to ensure that Railtrack addresses both the effects
of the recent bad weather on train services and the programme
of essential rail replacement and upgrading as soon as possible
whilst maintaining the highest safety standards.
The Scottish Executive announced a 45% increase in
transport expenditure over the course of the next 3 years
in spending plans published in September. Of particular benefit
to the tourist industry will be the £18.5 million allocated
to the rural transport fund. The fund provides support for rural
bus services and grants to help rural petrol stations upgrade
and replace fuel tanks. This latter measure will help maintain
a core network of supply throughout some of the most scenic parts
of Scotland. The Petrol Station Grants scheme has also been extended
to allow support for installation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
tanks, a fuel that is in widespread use in continental Europe.
I am sorry we did not meet your initial deadline
for reply but it has been necessary to consult other Departments
and the Scottish Executive. For the future, recommendations by
the Committee will be addressed to the UK Government, and we could
expect to focus the Government's response and any subsequent information
for the Committee's Annual Reports on reserved matters which remain
the responsibility of the UK Government.
The Scotland Office
28 November 2000