Select Committee on Liaison First Report


Memorandum from the Scottish Office

Thank you for your letter of 15 September which asked about progress relating to 4 recent reports of the Committee for inclusion in what will be the Committee's first Annual Report. This response follows consultation with relevant Departments and the Scottish Executive.

Of the four reports, the first (New Deal) received a Government reply before devolution on 1 July 1999; and, as you recognised, the Scottish Executive is not bound by that response. The second and third reports (Inward/Outward Investment and Tourism) were prepared before devolution, and the Government's replies, published after devolution, included comments by the Scottish Executive in respect of matters which had by then become devolved. The most recent report (Poverty) was also initiated before devolution, and the Government's reply to the Committee's recommendations will be sent to you very shortly. This response focuses primarily therefore on the second and third reports, and includes information provided by the Scottish Executive in respect of devolved matters.

The New Deal Published 1998

The New Deal is a key element of the Government's plans to help people move from welfare dependency into work. The New Deal tackles the inequalities that result from unemployment and is designed to help people move into sustainable employment so that they can enjoy a better standard of living and better prospects that come from being in work. The successful implementation of the New Deal in Scotland has been founded on an effective partnership involving, the Employment Service, the Scottish Executive and public and private partners. The Government was grateful for the support expressed for the New Deal by the Scottish Affairs Committee.

You asked for certain information about the recent performance of the New Deal and about the Personal Advisors. At end August 2000, 59,300 young people had participated in New Deal 18-24. 28,100 had found employment of which 20,800 were in sustained employment; 17,500 were unsubsidised jobs while 3,300 were subsidised jobs. A further 24,600 young people had participated in work experience, full time education or training, work with the voluntary sector or a placement with the Environmental Taskforce through a New Deal Option. 30,000 people had participated in New Deal 25+ . 4,800 had found employment, of which 3,800 were in sustained employment. 2,800 of these jobs were unsubsidised.

The Employment Service continues to monitor Personal Advisor caseloads to ensure that personal advisors are able to respond effectively to the needs of clients. The ES has introduced a number of measures to increase the effectiveness of personal advisors which include: greater use of dedicated advisor managers; pilots to test a new post/grade of senior advisor; measures to reduce New Deal bureaucracy; new training products and programmes, including a greater emphasis on refresher training for experienced advisors; and a new quality assurance framework for advisory work.

Inward/Outward Investment 1999

I enclose at Annex A, a report by the Scottish Executive on subsequent developments since the Committee's Report. As stated in the Government response of December 1999, the Scottish Executive was able to report considerable early progress on many of the Committee's recommendations. LIS was subsequently able to report record inward investment in 1999-00. This up-date notes further progress towards integrating the resources of Locate in Scotland (LIS) and Scottish Trade International (STI), and additional support for outward investment by Scottish companies.

Tourism in Scotland 1999

I enclose at Annex B, a report by the Scottish Executive on the current position regarding the development of tourism in Scotland. The Government Response of April 2000 reported that all of the recommendations relating to devolved matters had been taken into account in the formulation of the Executive's new strategy for Scottish Tourism. This report covers developments since publication of the SE's Tourism Strategy including the independent management review of the Scottish Tourist Board (STB) published on 3 November.

The Committee's report also included references to transport within Scotland. The Office of Fair Trading completed its investigation into vehicle fuel pricing in the Highlands and Islands in July. The OFT found no evidence of anti-competitive behaviour or profiteering in the wholesale or retail sale of petrol and diesel. The price differential between the Highlands and Islands and the rest of Scotland was found to be a result of very low turnovers of fuel sales in sparsely populated areas and margins charged by retailers were considered reasonable in the circumstances.

In the case of the Western Isles, however, the OFT found that prices charged could not be fully justified on the basis of the evidence available to them. A further investigation is being undertaken into the situation on the Islands. Results of the investigation are expected early in the New Year.

The Government's 10 year transport plan announced in July placed particular attention on improving rail transport. The Plan provides for a total of £60bn of investment, including £29bn public funding, to be spent on improvements to the national rail network with new track, signalling and rolling stock. Major projects to benefit will include upgrading of the East Coast Mainline and modernisation of the West Coast Mainline. Both projects will greatly improve Scotland's links with the rest of the UK, including the major international air and cross Channel hubs.

In the short term the Government and the Rail Regulator are seeking to ensure that Railtrack addresses both the effects of the recent bad weather on train services and the programme of essential rail replacement and upgrading as soon as possible whilst maintaining the highest safety standards.

The Scottish Executive announced a 45% increase in transport expenditure over the course of the next 3 years in spending plans published in September. Of particular benefit to the tourist industry will be the £18.5 million allocated to the rural transport fund. The fund provides support for rural bus services and grants to help rural petrol stations upgrade and replace fuel tanks. This latter measure will help maintain a core network of supply throughout some of the most scenic parts of Scotland. The Petrol Station Grants scheme has also been extended to allow support for installation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) tanks, a fuel that is in widespread use in continental Europe.


I am sorry we did not meet your initial deadline for reply but it has been necessary to consult other Departments and the Scottish Executive. For the future, recommendations by the Committee will be addressed to the UK Government, and we could expect to focus the Government's response and any subsequent information for the Committee's Annual Reports on reserved matters which remain the responsibility of the UK Government.

The Scotland Office
28 November 2000

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