By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Labour has been accused of “staggering ignorance” after the party launched an attack on the modern apprenticeships scheme.
SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn says Johann Lamont’s party must apologise after it attacked the skills programme that has supported 35,000 aged 16 to 19 into employment since 2009.

The row follows a Labour party press release in which Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale accused the Scottish Government of “massaging” figures relating to apprenticeships because young people were already employed prior to starting the apprenticeship.

According to official figures, 39% of apprentices were employed for more than six months before commencing their apprenticeship and 61% less than six months.

The Labour MSP appeared on BBC Scotland claiming that she had been forced to “drag” the figures “tooth and nail” out of the government agency.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics Show Ms Dugdale said: "These figures show that 10,000 people studying for modern apprenticeships were already in work for six months before they started it.

"There's another figure there, 15,000 people who were already in work for six months or less. It is my view that many of these people were already established in their jobs before they were put onto modern apprenticeships."

Confronted by the Labour claims on the same programme, Education Minister Mike Russell branded the Labour press release “a disgrace”. 

Mr Russell explained that it was normal practice for young people to be employed prior to the apprenticeship beginning due to the timing of college course terms and a desire by some employers to want to assess the person’s suitability.

He said: "What happens is an employer will take a young person in and assess their suitability for a modern apprenticeship, or maybe they will start them in there before they send them to college.

"Every single young person of the 25,000 young apprenticeships in Scotland has to have a job.  It is what distinguishes modern apprenticeships from everything else.  They have to work."

The Labour press release featured prominently on BBC Scotland with TV and Radio news bulletins repeating the claims throughout Sunday, and into Monday morning’s Good Morning Scotland where it was the first item mentioned on the show.

A spokesperson for Skills Development Scotland, the Agency under attack, said: "When an MA [modern apprentice] starts with an employer they do not always commence their training straight away.

"This can be for a variety of reasons such as college term times being some months off or the employer wishing to ensure the trainee will provide a return on their significant investment.

"MAs are geared towards helping new recruits but also the up-skilling of existing employees to gain invaluable skills and industry recognised qualifications."

However, it has emerged that the employment mechanism being criticised by Labour is the same one they used when last in office.

Mr Hepburn , the MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth said:

“Labour clearly does not understand, or chooses to ignore, that the scheme is run in the same way as when it was last in office – which shows they are either totally confused or totally hypocritical.

“This attack misrepresents the fantastic work the Modern Apprenticeships scheme does for our young people, with all of our apprentices in employment.

“At a time when politicians must unite to help tackle unemployment – particularly amongst the 16 to 24 age group – Labour is instead attacking a scheme that is upskilling people for the future.”

Mr Hepburn described the claims of massaging by Labour as “lies” and insisted an apology was required.

He added:

“While Labour launches an ignorant assault on the scheme, the SNP Government works hard to bolster life chances for our young people by investing £72million to support more than 26,427 MA starts last year.

“But if Labour had been in power, Scotland would have lost apprentice places as the party’s MSPs voted against this in the budget.

“In 20011/12 our £69million was nearly double the £35million invested by the Labour party when it was last in government, while we have doubled the 55,288 apprentices in 2006/07 to 112,501 in 2010/11.”

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, where the Labour attack was the lead item on the programme, Kezia Dugdale criticised the fact that young people were in employment prior to starting their apprenticeship.

However Ms Dugdale eventually conceded that being employed was indeed a requirement for modern apprenticeships.

The Labour MSP was followed by Scottish Minister for Young people, Angela Constance who launched a scathing attack on Labour, calling their attacks shameful, and urged the party to withdraw the claims.

Ms Constance pointed out that almost 81% of 16 to 19 year olds were employed for less than six months prior to beginning their apprenticeship.

However, the interview was marred twice when in an extraordinary show of rudeness, host Gary Robertson prevented Ms Constance from comparing the current situation with Labour’s record in 2006 - "Never mind about 2006" an irritated Robertson barked.

A further attempt by the SNP Minister was treated in the same manner by the BBC reporter who seemed eager to avoid shedding any light on Labour’s record.


The interview with Labour’s Kezia Dugdale can be heard here as can the interview with Angela Constance: (Approx 1hr 08 minutes and 2hrs 08 minutes respectively)


# mudfries 2012-06-12 06:28
Shocking stuff this, the labour party dont care one bit about what is best for our young people, all they care about is their own petty point scoring and mud slinging against anything the SNP is doing, and they are being helped all the way by their friends in the unionist media, what a shower.
# aiberdeen sheep 2012-06-12 06:29
Something really needs to be done about Robertson.

Can he not get a job with Fox News?
# Barbazenzero 2012-06-12 08:33
I fear not. Even Fox have some journalistic standards.
# Macart 2012-06-12 06:36
Reached a level, then limbo danced right under it.

Not a journalist, not a reporter, not an interviewer, more of a Labour party spokesman.
# clootie 2012-06-12 08:10
That's the key point - Labour get away with it because their media wing (BBC Scotland do the work for them).

Labour create myth
Daily Record / BBC run with it
Labour quote news articles in Holyrood

It's a farce. However it's now so visible and obvious that the BBC are bias that the trust can no longer present a credible arguement that stands the test of a neutral observer.
# Macart 2012-06-12 09:28
It was a reasonably fair set of tough interviews right up to the moment Angela Constance wanted to launch an attack of her own, then the shutters came up. My view may be coloured by worse actions of PQ in recent times (in fact, it is), but context is context and Angela Constance was correct to offer comparison of record.
# UpSpake 2012-06-12 06:54
What is the definition of a Modern Apprenticeship as opposed to a Traditional Apprenticeship which I undertook all those years ago ?.
Once I know what makes it 'modern' then I can understand ?.
# Legerwood 2012-06-12 07:24
I think the difference is that the government gives money to employers to help fund the modern apprenticeship whereas in our day the employer did not receive any money from government to help fund any apprentices they employed.

In those far off days it was considered a sound business move to take on and train apprentices so that you had a skilled workforce. Of course we all know that often an apprentice once time-served could be let go but as a qualified worker he/she would be able to find another job.

No it seems we, the taxpayer, are funding these apprenticeships because businesses do not want to take the 'hit' for training people but would erather fish in an ever diminishing pool of skilled qualified workers.

That is probably a gross generalisation on my part and given it is a lifeline for young and not so young people I think it should be funded but at the same time I think employers should/could do a lot more for themselves after all it is their business.
# Barbazenzero 2012-06-12 08:38
Legerwood is right as far as s/he goes, but to that should be added the element of formal academic training. That has been the norm with better employers for some decades but was not previously compulsory.
# Legerwood 2012-06-12 20:18
It often depended on what sort of apprenticeship you did whether it contained an element of formal academic training. Trades tended not to have formal colelge based components but that started to change in the 1970s with day release courses at Technical Colleges. This in fact was much complained about by employers particularly on the trades side because they had not previously sent their apprentices to College. They claimed they 'lost' the use of the apprentice/es and so claimed it was expensive etc etc.

Probably the reduction in apprenticeships started from that time, albeit slowly.

On the vocational side of things e.g Medical Lab Technicians, quantity surveyors etc there was always an academic component sometimes organised by the professional institutes but then by the late 1960s moving into the Colleges but with input from the professional institutes as to course content.

Most of those vocational training careers are now pretty well graduate only entry whereas before you could enter them with O grades or Highers and get on the job training plus college time for the academic component.
# iReferee 2012-06-12 07:27
Kezia Dugdale is really trying to make a name for herself (probably sees herself as a future leader) but really comes across as quite immature and not very likeable. At only 30 though and in the shadow cabinet the Labour party powers that be must see her doing the right things.

Oh, had to edit this post as can't post again for half an hour but I see blog on LabourHame says that Scotland will no longer be part of Britain after independence...jack hammers at the ready.

See you in half an hour.
# bodun 2012-06-12 09:58
I commented on this post by Margaret Curran on Sunday morning - now 48 hours ago. It is still showing as "in moderation" and as I write there are no other comments. I assume that they are simply not taking comments any more - which begs the question of why not.

For the record (and so as not to waste a good rant) this is the comment I left:

Ms. Curran’s analysis is almost as simplistic and ill-informed as Ed Miliband’s efforts of this week. The concepts of Britain and Britishness are far older and much richer than she asserts.

Britain exists as (at least) a geographic entity, best named the British Isles, as a cultural label which encompasses many diverse groups and nations, as an administrative region within the UK. Only the last of these would be ended by Scottish cessation from the 1707 act.

Post independence Scots will feel as British as they see fit, as today’s Swedes and Danes feel Scandinavian. Britishness is not in the gift of the Westminster government or the Labour Party, it is a property of those living in the British isles. When does Ms. Curran suggest that the Channel Islanders lost their Britishness?

As Pete Wishart put it so succinctly, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our GEOGRAPHY”.
# Marian 2012-06-12 07:32
Another day and yet another drip drip of smears and distortions of the truth from Labour which is picked up eagerly by their acolytes at the BBC and Scotsman, Herald, Courier, P&J, etc.

Labour have practised this for so long now they have now got it down to a fine honed art.

Sadly for the truth the SNP leadership appear to have no answer to these tactics by Labour.
# UpSpake 2012-06-12 07:35
Legerwood. Then they are just Apprenticeships ?. Complete irrelevence to the trainee who funds them so long as they are gainfully employed, learning a trade.
I thought this modern apprenticeships was nothing more than pure spin and you have confirmed that. I will continue to call an apprentice just that, an apprentice. Modernor historical simply is an irrelevence.
# Aplinal 2012-06-12 07:37
Listened to the clips. I thought Gary Robertson gave Dugdale a robust interview. He pushed her to admit the jobs requirement, challenged her on the labour vote on the financing. So, surprisingly, I am satisfied with his approach in that interview. We really shouldn't get into a hissy fit just because it was Gary Robertson.

As regards the interview with Angela Constance, he is right to ask the minister to clarify the facts about the young people on the schemes. His, "never mind about 2006" was not rude and he certainly didn't "bark" it out! Please NNS less tabloid journalism! It was irrelevant to the discussion, and he was getting the minister to respond to the current situation.

Please, let's critisise the BBC Scotland when they DO do outrageously biased interviews, but let's also keep some perspective on this.

IMHO, Angela was given enough time to successfully put across the positive benefits of the scheme without interruption. She was 'pulled up' when she made the comparison with Labour (and quite frankly, the SNP doesn't need to keep comparing itself with Labour, they have enough positives to stand on their own record) which may have been brusque by Robertson. But that was it!

Overall, anyone listening would have heard Labour on the back foot, and challenged by Robertson, and the SNP explaining clearly what the scheme is about and why Labour were wrong. What's not to like?

(Anyway, that's me for at least 30 minutes, and probably not again until this evening. Poor decision that one!)
# snowthistle 2012-06-12 08:09
Agree with you completely Aplinal, the 2006 bit was irrelevant, Robertson had a limited time to get Angela Constance to answer the points raised by Kezia Dugdale. That is what listeners want, they want to hear what this government is doing, they are perfectly able to make up their own minds about what went on in the past.
One of the things that annoys me about Labour politicians is that they spend more time talking about the SNP than they do about themselves. the SNP should stand up for their own policies and, if their own policies are sound, that should be good enough.
# john__ 2012-06-12 08:23
What you are both missing is that Angela constance was trying to make a very valid political point. You can't be in politics without doing this. The labour attack was entirely based on a public misconception of the scheme. It was a misconception that was started by labour. That is a perfectly valid thing to point out.

As for the interview, Angela did get enough time to explain the situation, and had done so. It was only when she was returning the attack (as all politicians must do) that she was abruptly told it was irrelevant. She then tried to make that point on a couple of occasions. Perfectly valid, and having aired the original complaints from labour, the BBC should have allowed the full response. Gary was obviously irritated that he had to give time to someone who was clearly showing how petty minded the labour party is.

You forget that the SNP are not a passive movement. We will not get independence if we do not actively strive for it. there are too many interests that want to keep us shackled. We are right not to stoop to the level of labour and in this case I don't think the minister did (after all her attacks was based on a simple fact, and not on a public misconception).

# jafurn 2012-06-12 08:55
Nail on the head John.

Ms Dugdale was also comprehensively shown to be talking absolute non-sense on this issue on Newsnight Scotland on Monday night.
I think both the Labour party AND the BBC should issue an apology. Labour for misrepresenting the facts and BBC for carrying on with the non-story even after it was negated on the Sunday Politics show by Mike Russel( I think ).
# clootie 2012-06-12 09:23
Aplinal makes a good arguement. However I'm with John on this one.

I do think it's important to have both arguements for the site to work. I am biased and I need to be reminded of alternative viewpoints or interpretation of a report
# RaboRuglen 2012-06-12 07:59
Hi there,

Surely the whole point is that those who were previously in employment in ordinary unskilled jobs have been given the opportunity of starting an apprenticeship which they might not have been able to undertake or the apprenticeship not been available otherwise.

More nonsense from Labour.

Vote yes.

ps And I agree with you Aplinal, I too thought the interviews were pretty balanced overall, and I am no friend of the BBC.

# Mac 2012-06-12 08:36
To have a poorly contrived scare story so completely trashed in this way shows that Ms Dugdale is not a fit and proper person to be an MSP. And since she cares not a jot for the future prospects of young people shows she is not really a nice person as well.

As for BBC Scotland they have form in broadcasting Labour inspired scare stories as though they were factual. This represents the norm, we should expect nothing more or better.
# Marga B 2012-06-12 08:38
"The Labour press release featured prominently on BBC Scotland with TV and Radio news bulletins repeating the claims throughout Sunday, and into Monday morning’s Good Morning Scotland where it was the first item mentioned on the show."

That's the important point. Disappeared from digital Scotsman now but sat there for 2 days.

Comment by Catalan/US based professor today: all press are partisan, but unlike US, European papers tell lies to support their ideologies. But e.g. NY Times is trusted by all in spite of its definite ideological leanings for telling the truth.

Finally, OT I'm afraid (1/2 hour rule) back on Scotsman, Maddox has a thoughtful article on nationalism (unfortunate backing photo though of Greek extremist outburst on TV) where he compares "nationalism can come in much more benign forms, as we have seen here in Scotland where the SNP is avowedly a civic nationalist party.

"But, in the UK, while the focus of constitutional uncertainty has been on the Scottish question, another form of nationalism is now taking grip which could have far more profound effects on all parts of the country including north of the Border. English nationalism has never really gone away but it has manifested itself in the form of a loathing of the EU far more than in support for the far-right parties like the BNP."

# J Wil 2012-06-12 08:38
Labour and the Daily Record should be ashamed of themselves. A two page spread on this in yesterday's paper. So much for their claim to be fair to the SNP. Gardham and Chrichton the culprits again.
# alexb 2012-06-12 09:06
My grand-daughter is one of the fortunate one,s in a modern apprenticeship, so thank goodness for this scheme. But really, we have to get used to this type of smear, I see Gardham in today,s D.R is still repeating the lie that the Greens have deserted the S.N.P independence campaign, as it,s going to continue for the next two years. To quote Joseph Goebells, who along with Carl Diem was responsible for the fiasco of the Olympic torch relay, but that,s another matter, "If you tell a lie big enough, and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it". So this unionist propaganda is going to become more intense the nearer we get to the referendum date, so be prepared.
# Marga B 2012-06-12 09:55
OT, sorry don't know where to put this - Sàpiens, the excellent Catalan nationalist full-colour history mag. has an article this month on:

Does a British Scotland still make sense?

Written by Xavier Solano, who worked for the SNP on policy development. Not anti-UK but putting the independence case.

Will post contents if a suitable opportunity comes up but here's the links if anyone wants to do a Google translate or is OK with Catalan.
# Fungus 2012-06-12 11:52
I think Scottish Labour should apologise for being Scottish LAbour.
# Marga B 2012-06-12 11:53
New Internet law - substitute "on the web" for "in the Scottish media"? (Guardian)

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: "As the law stands, individuals can be the subject of scurrilous rumour and allegation on the web with little meaningful remedy against the person responsible.
# Jimbo 2012-06-12 12:45
The Labour MSP appeared on BBC Scotland claiming that she had been forced to “drag” the figures “tooth and nail” out of the government agency.

I think Dugdale should also apologise for using the terminology of torture.

By comparing her 'problem' with the garnering of statistics to torture she diminishes the suffering of those who have ever actually been the victims of torture - including those who were subjected to [Labour's condoning of] rendition flights.
# Caadfael 2012-06-13 06:48
She needs to understand that the metaphor is "fight tooth and nail". Good job shes not in education!
Perhaps a touch of hairy-oobit-itis?
# peter,aberdeenshire 2012-06-12 20:36
Mike Russell was as usual brilliant on Politics Sunday or whatever it is called now when discussing this, I would liked to have seen him on QT from Inverness as he is not afraid to confront the BBC about it's bias or reporting of Labour press releases.

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