YOUTH unemployment in the Borders has risen by a staggering 139 per cent in the last four years, figures released this month have shown.
It means the region has seen the eighth largest rise in 18 to 24- year-olds being out of work out in 209 areas in the UK.
That statistic is higher than Inverclyde or Middlesbrough – UK regions where unemployment is traditionally high.
And in only the last year, jobless numbers in the age group have risen by 26 per cent, according to the Trades Union Congress. Only 15 other local authority areas in Great Britain witnessed a larger percentage of young people joining the dole queue in the past 12 months.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk’s Tory MSP John Lamont labelled the figures deeply worrying for the Borders.
He added: “These figures prove that the SNP’s economic ‘Plan MacB’ is not working. Many people will be shocked at this huge rise, and the reality now being faced by our youth who are simply unable to find employment at this current time.
“Urgent action must now be taken by the SNP to ensure that we do not have a lost generation in the Borders as we cannot afford to fail them.
“More must be done to provide our youth with training that is not only tailored to their interests but that will also help them gain employment.”
However, the SNP’s Christine Grahame stated that the Scottish Government has pledged to fund 125,000 new start apprenticeships over the next five years. She also claimed nearly 300,000 training opportunities had been created since Alex Salmond’s party came into power in 2007.
“Youth unemployment is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues facing the Scottish and UK Governments just now, and it is important that youngsters are given the chance to pursue worthwhile opportunities in employment or further and higher education,” said the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP.
Ms Grahame added that apprentice training places across Scotland had risen by around 60 per cent in five years.
She said: “As well as our commitment on training places we have pledged to offer all 16 to 19-year-olds a place in education or training.
“I think it is worth pointing out that expenditure on further education in Scotland by 2014/15 will be around £91 per head of population, as compared to around £62 per head being spent in England.”
But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber was less optimistic. He said: “We’re facing the biggest youth unemployment crisis in a generation with close to one million of our young people unable to find work.
“With the economic outlook the gloomiest it’s been since the end of the recession the bleak prospects facing young jobseekers look set to be with us for some considerable time to come, unless the (UK) government changes course now and brings in immediate measures to support jobs and growth.”