Unemployment in Borders up almost 120% year on year

Unemployment in the Borders has risen by almost 120% year on year as the coronavirus lockdown continues to wreak havoc on the region’s economy, new figures reveal.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 11:08 am
Jedburgh's Starrett tool factory, in Oxnam Road, is among the Borders employers set to lay off staff.
Jedburgh's Starrett tool factory, in Oxnam Road, is among the Borders employers set to lay off staff.

An additional 2,000 people are now claiming unemployment benefit compared to the same period last year.

And with no sign of a quick fix for the economy, it is feared that the situation is going to get much worse before it gets better.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the unemployment rate in the Borders has increased 117% cent in a year, rocketing from 1,725 in May 2019 to 3,745 last month.

The number of people claiming benefits for being out of work is now at the highest level on record.

May’s figures represent 5.5% of the Borders’ population aged 16 to 64, up from 2.5% in May 2019.

South Scotland Labour list MSP Colin Smyth, describing those figures as shocking, is calling for additional support to help struggling families once the furlough scheme ends.

He said: “Unfortunately, unless the Scottish and UK governments and our newly-formed enterprise agency come together and take serious action very soon, these figures will only get worse.

“We can’t forget that behind these figures represents a person who is now struggling to pay for the essentials they and their families need to survive.”

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont also fears the worst is yet to come, saying: “The economic and employment figures from recent days show there are tough times ahead.

“If it weren’t for some of the unprecedented support packages of over £10bn from the UK Government, these would be considerably worse.

“What we need is an economic stimulus to help protect and grow the number of jobs in the Borders as we ease back to normality.

“South of Scotland Enterprise has a huge role to play in our future.

“We have already seen businesses reducing their footprint in places such as Jedburgh.

“Rural areas like ours will need all the help we can get to begin the recovery from coronavirus.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton added: “This is concerning news on the latest unemployment figures, with 3,745 Borderers now out of work.

“It is a worrying time for so many individuals and families who have lost their jobs.

“The Scottish National Party government must act now to ensure that the situation does not worsen further by implementing a robust economic recovery plan.

“Businesses right across the Borders have had to make tough decisions, and this has not been helped by the SNP’s flawed Covid-19 business support package.”

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame reckons it’s the UK Government that needs to do more, though, saying: “The Scottish Government has so far spent more than £4bn tackling the effects of this pandemic on ordinary families, but there is much more to do to help our local economy back to health.

“That’s why it has just announced a £230m return-to-work package which will create jobs by providing a pipeline of work for businesses.

“It covers construction, low-carbon initiatives, digitisation and business support across the country, including for Borders communities.

“The Scottish Government is fully committed to working with local enterprise agencies to protect jobs, create new jobs and make sure this area gets back on its feet as soon as possible.

“The pandemic has also demonstrated that Scotland needs beefed-up fiscal powers to properly combat a health and economic crisis like this.

“Meanwhile, the SNP will continue to press the Westminster government to extend support like the employees furlough scheme while local business and families alike find their feet.”

Employers in the Borders laying off staff include Jedburgh’s Mainetti and Starrett factories, Selkirk’s Ovo Energy office, Melrose’s Waverley Castle Hotel and shops including Clarks in Galashiels.

Further redundancies are set to follow, though yet to be confirmed, at hotels in Peebles and Cardrona and potentially at builders’ merchant Travis Perkins’ yards at Kelso and St Boswells.