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Gloomy news

Brian Taylor | 13:48 UK time, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

More gloomy news on jobs and the Scottish economy.

The Lloyds Banking Group, which now includes HBOS, is to shed around 1000 Scottish posts - although redeployment may reduce the number of permanents jobs lost to around half that figure.

It follows retrenchment at the Royal Bank of Scotland - with jobs going and to go.

In Glasgow, the city council is preparing to offer voluntary redundancy to staff aged over 50. With an eye to the Westminster by-election in the city, the move has been condemned by the SNP.

The Labour leadership at the council says it has a policy of no compulsory redundancy which will stay in force at least until the end of the fiscal year in March 2010. The policy is annually reviewed.

The council says further that the likely redundancy trawl (it has yet to be formally endorsed) is part of a wider reform package which is intended to shake up what the council does and how it does it.

In Dumfries and Galloway, the local authority has agreed to consult on a package of savings which could, inevitably, mean job losses.

Collectively, Scotland needs to review ways of reviving our economy. Is it to be done primarily by stimulating private enterprise - with all the risks, the attendant ups and downs?

Cutting costs

Or should we continue to place reliance upon our relatively substantial public sector - currently, and for the foreseeable future, beset by pressure to cut costs?

Does the public sector enhance private enterprise - or squeeze the life out of it?

Can we do things differently in the public sector, perhaps in a way which would work more coherently with private business?

Should there be a greater role for the third sector, for social enterprise? Should corporate social responsibility become an intrinsic element of business growth, rather than an adjunct?

Good questions all, when voiced dispassionately. But perhaps rather difficult to hear in the raucous brouhaha which masquerades as political debate.

You will tell me that it is impossible to mount such an analytical discussion while a by-election is pending. I accept that. It has already, and entirely understandably, frozen negotiations over next year's Holyrood budget.

Post Thursday, you may tell me that it is impossible to discuss consensually because there is a UK General Election in the offing. Then there will be elections to the Scottish Parliament. Then . . .

Trust system

Me, I like the sound of the approach being adopted by David Berry, the SNP leader of East Lothian council.

With an eye to spending cuts to come, he asked council officials to "think out of the box."

One idea which emerged - in Mr Berry's "smorgasbord" - was a trust system which would allow schools more control over budgets.

He is adamant that nothing is fixed, nothing settled. He is equally keen to stimulate a coherent debate, free from preconceptions.

David Berry didn't need the realistically gloomy Audit Scotland report to tell him that his local authority budget is tight and getting tighter.

When I chatted to him, he sounded notably - and encouragingly - uninterested in apportioning blame for that.

His concern was with sorting it. It's a fundamental approach which - the partisan row over the Glasgow Airport rail link apart - has been followed by Glasgow's Steven Purcell and some other leaders.

Scotland needs a comparably iconoclastic approach from the entire public and private sector.

The way it's aye been will not be good enough. Not by a mile.


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