THE Scottish Government has been accused of ignoring the Borders after the region missed out on a £9million fund to tackle youth unemployment.
The Holyrood administration says the cash will create employment and training opportunities in Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, North and East Ayrshire, and Renfrewshire. The six council areas have been identified as having particular challenges with out-of-work youngsters and as a result have shared the first tranche of the £30million Young Employment Strategy Fund.
Yet, the problem is still evident in the Borders, with the number of jobless people now standing at more than 2,000. Earlier this month, TheSouthern highlighted the hurdles encountered by one 19-year-old from Jedburgh – John Gotterson – a former Student of the Year at Borders College.
And John Lamont, MSP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, believes Scottish Borders Council (SBC) should have received financial assistance to help the likes of Mr Gotterson.
He said: “We have far too many young people in the Borders who are finding it nearly impossible to find work and it is vital that we do everything we can to help them. It is therefore astonishing that the SNP have chosen to once again ignore the Borders and not provide any funding to help the situation.
“We cannot afford a lost generation in the Borders, especially when we face the threat of many of our young people moving away to find jobs in the cities.
“This problem will only get worse unless we take action now, yet the SNP have shown exactly where the Borders lies in their list of priorities by providing no help whatsoever.”
Councillor John Paton-Day, SBC’s children and young people’s champion, said he was worried for young Borderers trying to find work, and said further problems were created as a result of the lack of jobs.
He told TheSouthern: “I am amazed and surprised that the Borders have been left out of the funding allocation. Youth unemployment is a growing problem. There is a lack of opportunities, and there were not many jobs in the first place.
“There is not a great deal of expectation for new businesses to start up here and although the Borders railway should help, that is more in the long term.
“I am extremely worried for the future of our young people and the only option now for many is to leave the area, which is not good for the Borders. It takes the soul out of the place.”
Mr Paton-Day added: “Youth unemployment causes a whole range of other problems such as misuse of drugs and drink, and with young people stuck at home that creates tension and homelessness.
“But I have great faith in young people and believe they have some great ideas and should look to starting their own businesses rather than being taken on by an employer.”
It is believed a leaked paper from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) included angry comments from some council chiefs that only six of 32 authorities would benefit from the funding boost. It is said to have recommended Cosla write to First Minister Alex Salmond about the matter, but SBC leader David Parker is confident the region will be included in further funding announcements.
He said: “In relation to youth unemployment, the limited funding that is available at this time is being targeted to the worst affected areas in Scotland. I am not upset with the approach that is being taken as we can’t expect to benefit from every single government funding announcement.
“There are a whole variety of interventions to deal with youth unemployment that are being taken forward at the moment and Scottish Borders Council is playing its part locally to do what we can in this area.”
Mr Parker added: “In the months ahead I do expect other announcements on this issue that may have a positive impact on the Borders.”