South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said unemployment figures released last week are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and the region is ‘still nowhere near’ the likely peak.

He is urging the UK and Scottish Government to take urgent action in a bid to halt an unemployment crisis.

According to NOMIS statistics released last week (July 21), 5,015 people claimed out of work benefits in Dumfries and Galloway in June, a 92 per cent rise compared to June 2019.

Taking into account those claiming out of work benefits, as well as those claiming the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and people currently furloughed, this represents 33 per cent of the region’s working age population currently not working.

Colin Smyth said: “Recent unemployment figures have shown the highest claimant count in Dumfries and Galloway for June since 1996 and we are still nowhere near the likely peak. We should never forget that behind the numbers are local people whose livelihoods have been snatched from them, so my thoughts are very much with all those affected.

“The level of unemployment among young people is especially devastating and we really do risk losing a whole generation to the scourge of unemployment. These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. They exclude the thousands of other people locally who are no longer employed compared to last month but don’t receive benefits and the number of people out of work will rise significantly in the next few months as the UK Government furlough scheme comes to an end.

“This needs to act as a wakeup call to both the UK and Scottish Government. Our region is standing on the edge of an unemployment crisis and without more Government help to support jobs, the number of families in our region who will find themselves out of work is going to rise significantly. Covid-19 is first and foremost a health crisis but it has also now become a massive economic crisis.”

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