Seventeen years of Conservative administration have left Scotland with an "incoherent and shambolic" training system that continues to dump around 20 per cent of school-leavers on the dole, George Robertson, Shadow Scottish Secretary, told the Grand Committee in Dundee on Monday.
Mr Robertson said that 57,000 of the 16-24 age-group were unemployed, a "stunning" 15 per cent. One in five of those who left school without Highers went straight on the unemployment register. A Labour Government would set up a task force to examine the prospects for under-25s chaired by a Scottish Office minister and reporting to the Secretary of State.
Labour would also introduce four "quality routes from welfare to work" through increased opportunities for education and training, job experience with guaranteed training, a Scottish environmental task force to clear up the countryside and, a community service programme.
Individual learning accounts would be based on the premise that "the more you learn, the more you earn".
Mr Robertson later attacked the announcement of a Centre of Excellence in Enterprise Education at the Scottish Further Education Unit in Stirling as "pork barrel politics" by Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary and local MP. Ministers replied that the centre, which will receive Pounds 300,000 over two years, would provide a national focus to stimulate enterprise skills and entrepreneurship in courses.
Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, rebutted accusations about a chain of ineffective programmes, supported by "glossy brochures". "Each year we have better qualified school-levers and the total number of students successfully completing full-time higher education courses in Scotland has risen continuously since 1985," Mr Robertson said.
The Skillseekers programme which had been a "resounding success with employers and young people".
But Michael Connarty, Falkirk East, replied that while Grampian had 94 per cent of young people in jobs with training, the figure for Highland was 23 per cent, Dumfries and Galloway 29 per cent, Borders 43 per cent and Lanarkshire 35 per cent.
The Government's record also came under fire from Roseanna Cunningham, SNP member for Perth and Kinross, who told MPs that more than 60 per cent of those on youth training programmes in Tayside failed to find work and a similar percentage had no vocational qualifications. "Threats and benefit cuts will not solve youth unemployment," she said.
Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat member for North-East Fife, said that only 12.9 per cent of employees in Scotland received training. In Germany, 75 per cent of middle managers in hotels had recognised qualifications but not a single UK worker. The number of 16-year-olds in education and training fell far behind their equivalents in Germany and France.