North Ayrshire was previously discounted for public sector jobs because it would be ‘difficult to recruit staff’.
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Nicola Sturgeon has been grilled over the decision to dish out 2,000 new social security jobs to major Scottish cities.
North Ayrshire Council leader Joe Cullinane has penned a strongly-worded letter to the First Minister following the jobs boost for Glasgow and Dundee.
The local authority chief previously fumed at the Scottish Government's "scandalous" decision to base Social Security Scotland's HQ in Dundee and Glasgow as it would be ‘difficult to recruit staff’.
Now Mr Cullinane has demanded that Ms Sturgeon reveals the process by which the location of the new jobs was determined.
Council leader Cullinane said in his letter to the First Minister: "Whilst the announcement of public sector jobs is welcome, I am once again writing to your Scottish Government asking for clarification on the process upon which the location of these jobs is decided and how that matches the Government’s rhetoric on supposed priorities such as ‘inclusive growth’.
"We know from the process that the Scottish Government followed in deciding to locate the Social Security Agency headquarters in Dundee and Glasgow that it conflicted with your government’s stated policy priorities.
"In the first round of the location assessment, North Ayrshire scored highest in Scotland under ‘inclusive growth’, a recognition that good quality, well-paid public sector jobs would have a greater impact in North Ayrshire than they would in any other local economy in the country.
"These jobs would have helped address the stark levels of regional inequality that plaque Scotland. It was therefore scandalous that North Ayrshire was then knocked out of the assessment process at the first round due to a misconceived, and quite frankly insulting, view by Government officials that it would be ‘difficult to recruit staff’ in our area, a view that I continue to believe was a slur on the skills of local people."
The Scottish Government said in response this week that they "remain committed to working with North Ayrshire Council and regional partners to unlock investment and create jobs in the area."
Mr Cullinane has also questioned the reasons for basing a new NHS 24 hub in Dundee.
The council leader highlighted an economic report that stated that the creation of new public sector jobs could help remedy inequalities in the area.
He asked of the First Minister: "Is it still the case that your government believes it would be ‘difficult to recruit’ the people with the necessary skills to undertake these public sectors in North Ayrshire?
"You will be aware that the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) report recognises the high levels of regional inequality in Scotland and, using analysis undertaken by the Scottish Government, identified North Ayrshire as having the lowest level of regional resilience in Scotland. National investment decisions, in areas such as the creation of new public sector jobs, should address such matters.
"Understanding the Scottish Government’s decision-making process for national investments, and how this seeks to reduce regional inequality, is therefore important to us. I would welcome your perspective on your government’s success of embedding this principle into investment decisions."
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The decision on the location of Social Security Scotland was taken some years ago following the completion of a detailed and robust analytical exercise. The new 2,000 jobs that will be created are to be welcomed and include 400 local jobs across Scotland.
“The Ayrshire Growth Deal, signed in November 2020, will see £103 million of Scottish Government investment over ten years funding projects such as The Great Harbour and Marine Tourism.
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"In addition we have funded projects included within the deal such as the Ayrshire Skills Fund, Working for a Healthy Economy, and Community Wealth Building will support inclusive growth across Ayrshire and seek to develop resilient, inclusive local economies, with more local employment and a large and more diverse business base.
"We remain committed to working with North Ayrshire Council and regional partners to unlock investment and create jobs in the area and recently provided support for the development of Ayrshire’s Regional Economic Partnership which will set out a regional strategic vision to support recovery from the pandemic.”
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