South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said the latest employment figures released yesterday (Tuesday) which show 5,090 people in Dumfries and Galloway claiming out-of-work benefits in July, must act as a wake-up call for the Scottish and UK Governments.

This represents 5.8 per cent of the working age population and is almost double the number compared to this time last year (2,630 in July 2019).

Worryingly, the highest rates are seen among young people – 11 per cent of 18-21 year olds and 10.3 per cent of 18-24 year olds.

Nationally, the number of people unemployed in Scotland (April-June 2020) is up by 9.8% on the previous quarter (Jan-March 2020) and 21.8% on the previous year (April-June 2019).

Colin Smyth said: “The level of unemployment seen in these statistics is shocking and it is particularly devastating among young people.

“If this continues, we risk losing a whole generation to the scourge of unemployment. What is worse is that 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.

“We now have unemployment figures showing the highest claimant count in Dumfries and Galloway for July 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.

“What is certain is that 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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