Youth jobs under Constance surveillance

9th December 2011 at 00:00
Newly-created post of Minister for Youth Employment comes with challenges

Draconian" college cuts and other funding issues were at the forefront of debate as a major shake-up in Scottish education saw Angela Constance take on her third ministerial appointment in a year.

The Livingston MSP was relieved of her role as Minister for Children and Young People this week - after just six months in the post - and given the newly-created post of Minister for Youth Employment.

She pledged to "leave no young person behind" as she began discussions with councils, colleges, business and the voluntary sector on how best to spend the pound;30 million "additional investment" in young people announced by the First Minister last week.

Opposition MSPs welcomed the creation of the post, which coincided with the announcement that Scotland's colleges will receive a separate pound;15m pot of money to fund sweeping reform.

But both the Conservatives and Labour raised questions over funding.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: "It is a crucial post. However, we have concerns over the funding. We need to know if the pound;30m budget will be delivered this year or is it to be allocated for over three years? We also need to know if all of the pound;30m is new money?"

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman, said: "If the new minister is worth her salt then the first thing she will do is demand that the SNP reverse their draconian cuts to college funding. The SNP is imposing real-term cuts of pound;100m on our colleges at a time when they are most needed."

The Scottish Government confirmed that the pound;30m earmarked for youth employment was new and would be spent over three years.

Under the reshuffle the SNP's youngest minister, Aileen Campbell, 31, moved from being Minister for Local Government and Planning - again after just six months - to take over the Children and Young People portfolio.

Newcomer Derek Mackay was given his first ministerial brief, accepting local government and planning.

He was leader of Renfrewshire Council when it hit the headlines last year over plans to employ non-teachers in schools, a proposal scrapped in the face of widespread opposition from teachers, parents and the GTCS.

Scotland's Colleges welcomed the new ministerial post and the pound;15 million investment but warned that the "unprecedented and substantial restructuring" remained a "significant challenge".

John Spencer, convener of the Principals' Convention of Scotland's Colleges said: "We are pleased the Scottish Government has listened to the arguments, and welcome the announcement that additional resource is to be made available next year.

"It is important, however, that this support be kept under review for the duration of the reform period. The cuts will remain a significant challenge for colleges in being able to retain places for learners."

Graeme Hyslop, principal of Langside College, Glasgow, expressed "dismay" that colleges may have to join an "internecine bidding war" and "jump through further hoops" to receive the funding needed.

The shake-up also brought a new title for Alasdair Allan, who became the first minister to be given responsibility for science; his new title is Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages.

Who, what and where have they been?

Angela Constance - MSP for Livingston, aged 41

Former social worker, her first ministerial brief was for Skills and Lifelong Learning; now Minister for Youth Employment.

Aileen Campbell - MSP for Clydesdale, aged 31

Worked as an editorial assistant on pro-independence newspaper, the Scottish Standard; now Minister for Children and Young People.

Derek Mackay - MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, aged 34

Former Renfrewshire Council leader; now Minister for Local Government and Planning.

Alasdair Allan - MSP for the Western Isles, aged 40

Church of Scotland media relations officer and Gaelic journalist before becoming an MSP; now Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages.

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