Scottish Unemployment Figures Drop

The latest unemployment stats are out - they show the number out of work here has fallen by 3 thousand in the three months running up to July.

The drop between May and July takes the unemployment total to about 204,000, the Office for National Statistics said.

At the same time, the number of people in work increased by 23,000, taking the total in Scotland to about 2,496,000.

The unemployment rate is 7.5%, just below the UK rate of 7.9%. The employment rate increased over the quarter to 71.6%, above the UK average of 70.5%.

The number of people described as economically active increased by 20,000 over the period.

However, the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance was 145,700 in August - an increase of 1,200 over the month.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said, "This reduction in unemployment is welcome news, especially given the ongoing difficulties in the global economy.

Despite the difficult finances that this government has inherited, we are taking the decisions that create jobs and opportunities in the long-term.

Our macroeconomic policy includes major measures to boost growth, with the creation of the most competitive business tax system in the developed world as we cut corporation tax progressively to the lowest rate in the G7.''

He said the UK Government has boosted tax relief for start-up companies and that the UK's credit rating has been restored to its highest possible level.

Scotland was the only part of the UK where unemployment fell over the quarter, the Scottish Government said.

First Minister Alex Salmond called for the UK Government to deliver a "plan B'' in order not to derail any recovery north of the border.

He said, "Among all the nations and regions of the UK, Scotland was the only place with falling unemployment over the quarter, and we also have the largest decline in the unemployment rate over the year. Indeed, the rise in Scottish employment over the year of 36,000 encompasses the entire UK-wide figure of 24,000.

But as the claimant count rise indicates, more needs to be done and there are no grounds for complacency. We are building jobs and recovery in Scotland, and the UK Government must implement a plan B if our recovery is not to be derailed.''

A refreshed economic strategy for Scotland established a new priority to move towards a "low carbon economy'', he said.

"But we also need action from the UK Government - a plan B - to protect Scotland's economic recovery and jobs,'' Mr Salmond added.

"This must focus on the areas where Scottish Government action has made a difference: increased capital expenditure, improved access to finance for medium and small-sized businesses, as well as the introduction of measures to boost consumer confidence and economic security.

The Scottish Government also needs greater access to the key levers of economic growth, such as corporation tax and borrowing powers. This would enable us to do even more to enhance investment and jobs in the Scottish economy, and give Scotland a major competitive edge.''