One of the more bizarre aspects of the Scottish independence debate is the idea that UK welfare reform somehow doesn’t fit Scotland. On the contrary, it was designed for Glasgow – the Easterhouse housing scheme, to be specific, after a visit which changed Iain Duncan Smith’s whole career. And the other point about these reforms is that they’re actually working.
Today’s figures show that the number of Scots in employment is rising by almost 500 a day. A grand total of 2.62 million are now at work in Scotland – never in the country’s history has it had so many in work. And why? It's the same phenomenon that you see in England: the number of people available for work is rising far faster than the working-age population. In Scotland it's three times faster, according to today’s figures. So what’s the missing factor? Enter the IDS welfare reform agenda – yes, it’s tougher to be on benefits, and yes those on incapacity benefits are being hauled in for health assessments. But it means that people are looking for jobs.
When the Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell finally closed in 1992, it attracted huge publicity. It then employed 770 people – compare that to the 500 a day increase in employment. It has been estimated that another 10,000 jobs were linked to Ravenscraig. But today’s figures show that Scottish employment rose by 45,000 in the three months ending in July this year. As Iain Duncan Smith said today, Scotland’s unemployment rate is half that of Ireland – and it's now back to pre-crisis levels.
More jobs are being created in Britain every day than the rest of Europe put together. Part of the advantage of Scotland being British today is that it shares in the British jobs miracle – a phenomenon being experienced precisely nowhere else on the continent. Quite a boast. Or would be, if we had a properly-functioning government capable of making this boast.