Blog: REC reports from SNP party conference

Continuing the series of Recruitment and Employment Confederation blogs from this year’s major political party conferences – Karen O’Reilly, stakeholder engagement manager at the REC, reports from the Scottish National Party conference in Glasgow.

After all the drama in Manchester, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would have been hoping for a less fractious Scottish National Party (SNP) conference in Glasgow. The biggest upset occurred away from the conference centre though with Gordon Strachan’s side failing to qualify for the World Cup. The disappointment at the SNP’s business dinner, which took place just minutes after the defeat, was plain to see. Scotland’s 20-year wait to qualify for a major competition would continue, as would the party’s push for another independence referendum. 

With the appetite for another poll in Scotland dropping, Sturgeon told the party faithful during her keynote speech that the SNP would keep campaigning for independence but that this meant ‘governing and acting today’. There has been much criticism of the SNP for focusing on independence at the expense of other issues and they were keen to combat this with concrete policy announcements.

Skills and education was high on the agenda with Deputy First Minister Jon Swinney unveiling a £20k bursary for professionals to retrain as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) teachers. Our jobs data has been showing persistent skills shortages in Scotland and the rest of the UK in these areas so this investment along with the new Flexible Workforce Development Fund for apprenticeship levy payers is welcome. We’ll be monitoring the development of this new fund closely to see if a scheme such as this might benefit members in the rest of the UK.  

An extension of free childcare to three and four year olds, school reforms and increased education investment in deprived areas were also announced. The most thought provoking announcement was on their plans to investigate the feasibility of a citizens’ basic income. The results of this study will interest economists and labour market analysts around the world. 

While the SNP were keen to focus on domestic matters, Brexit was ever present. On the first day of the conference, Sturgeon said her government would pay the residency fees for EU citizens, who currently work in Scotland’s hospitals, schools, universities and public agencies. She also reiterated her calls for the devolution of immigration powers to Scotland. At the conference, we took the opportunity to share our extensive immigration research with MSPs and other stakeholders. We’ll continue to engage with the Scottish government on this issue over the coming months and will also share our Future of jobs research, which sheds light on the UK’s workforce needs over the next 10 years. 

The party conference season may have come to an end but that doesn’t mean we are any less busy here at REC HQ. We’ll be following up with the ministers, MPs, think tanks and representative bodies we met over the last few weeks and will continue to promote the positive contribution of recruiters to the UK economy and labour market. 

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