Politicians are putting the finishing touches to the various parties’ manifestos for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May.
The experts predict that the election result will be too close to call. We are told that the priority battleground will be on who has the right strategy to develop the Scottish economy. The focus on our economic performance is good news. Scotland has lagged behind most other parts of the UK in recent years. Recent surveys of business concerns tell us that top of the list for businesses, including most bakers, is the burden of over-regulation, followed closely by skills shortages. Most of us would not seriously argue with those conclusions.
If we know that these are the concerns of business, let us see the political parties step forward with some creative and meaningful proposals to help us. I despair of any politician getting to grips with over-regulation, but skills are different.
Real progress for us would be adequate funding of that Cinderella sector - skills and vocational training. In Scotland, particularly in the bakery sector, we have been well-supported by grants from the European Social Fund for many years. Those Funds are about to dry up in 2008 putting all that good work at risk. We have also seen chronic under-funding of Skillseeker programmes for young people and a lack of attention to funding training for older workers. If politicians really want to make a difference in 2007, help bakers to succeed by investing in our skills base.