Apologies for the lateness this week. It was one of those mornings and I'm still catching up.
The economy and jobs were the main feature today along with the announcement Scotland is to have a Bank Holiday on 5 June 2014 to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Iain Gray (Labour) concentrated on erm... lots really. Apprenticeships, unemployment, Garl were included in his questions. The FM was delighted Mr Gray welcomed the 19,991 modern apprenticeships this financial years and also asked the parliament to note that the new apprenticeship grant scheme for 4,000 young people, opened on 11 January with £4 million, was fully subscribed by 4 February.
Although Mr Salmond was asked to take responsibility for the rise in unemployment figures he refused and reeled off statistics: As per ILO figures unemployment in Scotland is 7.6%, the EU 9%, the UK 7.8% and the US 10%. The FM laid the lack of recovery firmly at the door of Alistair Darling because he refuses to consider a fiscal stimulus package and he's cutting Scotland's budget by £500m (well he did have to get that in didn't he?)
Annabelle Goldie's question centred on the proposed civil service union strike planned for next Wednesday. She tried hard to pin down the FM with regard to ordering MSPs to attend parliament for a normal business day. The FM said the matter had to be handled sensitively and he would do everything to ensure the government operated as usual and further issues were outwith his remit. Very carefully worded by the FM that answer.
Tavish Scott also went along with the economy and reiterated that the whole of the UK was doing worse than all of Europe other than Greece. Tavish was in campaign mode or at least practicing his campaigning. One point of interest which arose from the FM's reply was that for the first time there was a reduction in the claimant count in February. Could it be that many jobseekers are just giving up looking for a job when all they're offered is a few weeks' training in something which holds no interest for them? Who am I to say.