John Stevenson: What recent assessment he has made of the strength of the labour market in Scotland.
Alister Jack: I pay tribute to two great Scots who have sadly died in recent days. Winnie Ewing blazed a trail for women in politics. She was admired by colleagues from all Scotland’s parties as one of the most important politicians of her generation. Our thoughts are with her friends and family, particularly her children Fergus and Annabelle. And with Craig Brown’s passing on Monday, Scottish football lost a true legend who was held in high regard by players and fans across the country. Again, our thoughts are with his loved ones.
I am encouraged by the resilience that the Scottish labour market has shown, despite global issues still causing significant economic challenges. The latest official figures show that Scottish unemployment is close to a record low at 3.1%. I welcome that fact.
John Stevenson: If we are to grow the Scottish economy as well as the national one, it is vital that we have a skilled workforce and the right level of investment. It is also important for areas such as the Borders, between Scotland and England, to have the least friction in trade and labour market conditions. Does the Secretary of State agree that politicians of all persuasions have a responsibility to ensure maximum opportunities on whichever side of the border, to ensure the least amount of friction, particularly for those looking for employment?
Alister Jack: I agree. That is exactly why this Government introduced the United Kingdom Internal Market Act (2020): to protect frictionless trade across the UK. On maximising opportunities on whichever side of the border, it is a matter of some regret that Scotland is the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom.