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29 March 2016, 13:34
Young people will be given a jobs grant to help get back into work under the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The First Minister set out plans to use the power to create new benefits coming to the Scottish Parliament to support those aged between 16 and 24 with the costs of going back to work.
The grant of £100, or £250 for those with children, will be offered to young people who have been out of work for six months and are starting a job for more than 16 hours a week.
Young people who are entitled to the money will also receive help for public transport costs for up to three months.
The SNP said the grant could help around 6,000 young people a year as part of a drive to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021.
Ms Sturgeon said: "Under the SNP Government, youth employment has risen to its highest level since 2009 and is now the highest of any country in the UK.
"Over the next parliament we want to go further and reduce youth unemployment by 40%. The new SNP Jobs Grant will help those who have been out of work to start a new job and prevent young people slipping into long-term unemployment.
"Starting work comes with additional costs such as work clothes and travel expenses and for young people who may have no savings it can be difficult to get started.
"I want to see all our young people in work, training or employment. Over the next parliament we will increase the number of apprenticeships, bring employers, colleges and schools closer together to help young people into work, continue to support free education and support young people as they find employment.''
Earlier, Ms Sturgeon defended her decision to rule out introducing a 50p top rate of income tax when the new tax and welfare powers come into effect next year.
She has said the move would be "reckless'' and "daft'' in light of analysis suggesting it could lose Scotland #30 million.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I'm being upfront and frank about this. I will want to look on a year-by-year basis to see if there are ways in which the Scottish Government, within the limited powers we have, can mitigate this risk but I'm also saying clearly that it would not be a sensible thing for me as First Minister to do to raise a tax knowing that it might reduce the amount of revenue I've got to spend.''
She was pressed to set out whether the SNP's named person scheme - under which every child under 18 is assigned a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for their welfare - is mandatory or voluntary.
Ms Sturgeon said: "Every young person will have a named person but no parent is required to pay any attention to what a named person says if they don't want to do that.
"It is a universal service, a universal entitlement. The reason for that is to try to avoid vulnerable young people or young people who are at risk for whatever reason falling through the net.''
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has attacked the SNP's income tax plans, saying: "With each passing day the SNP's excuses for not reversing George Osborne's tax cut for the richest few look thinner than ever. The SNP won't ask the richest 1% to pay more tax but they will ask our children to pay the price of cuts.
"We have been very clear - Labour will ask those earning more than £150,000 a year to pay a 50p top rate of tax so we can invest in our schools. If we want Scotland to have a world-class education system then somebody has to pay for it. We need to invest in our schools, not carry on with the cuts.''
Ms Dugdale, who was campaigning at a nursery in East Lothian, continued: "Last year the SNP attacked austerity, now they just attack Labour's plan to tax the richest to end austerity.
"Nicola Sturgeon has spent her whole career arguing for more powers to stop the cuts and ask the richest to pay their fair share. Yet now that the Scottish Parliament has those powers the SNP are passing on the cuts and won't ask the richest 1% to pay more.
"Faced with a choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education or carrying on with the cuts, Labour will use the powers.''
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also hit out at the SNP, saying the party's "confused 50p tax policy means they are taking a gamble with the future of education funding''.
The Lib Dems plan to put 1p on the basic rate of income tax in Scotland, with the cash raised going to schools, colleges and nurseries.
Mr Rennie, who was campaigning in Edinburgh, said: "Scottish Liberal Democrats offer a fair and progressive penny for education to raise half a billion pounds to have a transformational impact on education. Everyone, no matter what their background is, will have the chance to get up and get on under our plan.''