Apprenticeship [10 March 2016]

I thank the Minister for an advance copy of his statement. I am a little surprised at the timing, given that apprenticeship week in Scotland was last week rather than next week, so it would have been beneficial for us to have the statement then. The Scottish Government have recognised the importance of apprenticeships for some time. Indeed, the Scottish Government are committed to creating 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year, which encompasses 80 different types of modern apprenticeships.

With that in mind, I would be interested to hear what consultation has taken place with the Scottish Government on this important issue. I do not doubt the Minister’s good intentions to create apprenticeships—we should all welcome that—but I question the method used to raise the money and its sustainability. The introduction of an apprenticeship levy remains a matter of fundamental concern for us. It encroaches on our devolved responsibilities and is causing concern for employers; it has also come under criticism from a wide number of organisations, including the CBI and the Chartered Institute of Taxation. The levy will have a knock-on effect for apprenticeships in Scotland, so we call on the UK Government to consider the economic impact that this measure will have.

I would like the Minister to reflect on the fact that Police Scotland will have to pay out up to £4.5 million a year on the UK Government’s plans for an apprenticeship levy, prompting warnings that finding extra cash savings will be “virtually impossible”. The UK Government have still to provide clarity on how Scotland’s share of the levy raised will be calculated and transferred to the Scottish Government. When will we get that clarity from the UK Government?