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Scottish Parliament Speech: West Fife Enterprise (November 2010)

See this speech in context on They Work For You

I thank my Mid Scotland and Fife colleague, John Park, for securing the debate. He is well known for the interest that he takes in what could be called education for regeneration. West Fife Enterprise was set up to provide skills and work training for former west Fife coal-mining communities - the ‘Little Moscows’, as they were known - which were hit hard by the Thatcher Government's destruction of the deep-mined coal industry.

Had the National Union of Mineworkers been led by a native of that place, Lawrence Daly, it might have carried the battle on rather better than it did. It was Daly who, in 1973, rallied the general council of his union against the Heath Government by reciting by heart the whole of act 2, scene 1 of ‘Julius Caesar’ and playing all the roles. The Little Moscows created remarkable men.

It is nearly 30 years since West Fife Enterprise was set up and it has done great work in reaching out to the unemployed, the low skilled and the disadvantaged, including young folk who are not in work or education. It offers skills training, qualifications, employability and confidence training. Those are tailored to the needs of more than 200 employers, who also provide the company with work placements and trials. West Fife Enterprise has gained numerous awards, including from Scottish Enterprise and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, as John Park said. It has done much to broaden vocational qualifications and to help clients to enter jobs and further education. West Fife is, after all, not just the country of Lawrence Daly but of Jennie Lee, the founder of the Open University.


West Fife Enterprise's high-technology facilities at Forthview industrial estate expanded in 2005, with low-cost public transport links drawing in clients from former coal mining communities in central Fife. As the current economic crisis piles pressure on Scotland's economy and finances, West Fife Enterprise goes back to basics and is even more important than when it was originally founded.

As we look over the economic horizon, we see looming up peak oil - a possible $200 to $300 a barrel - during which we will all have to manoeuvre and adapt to survive. Other skills and training initiatives in Fife deserve mention, such as the Siemens and Carnegie College initiative on offshore technology training. It addresses the challenge of North Sea oil extraction as we enter peak oil and the age of carbon capture. It also addresses the emerging field of marine renewables, which will be crucial - and for good - in the days when the oil runs out.

It is worth concluding with one bizarre anecdote that came my way today about a former Conservative candidate for the area. He is one Jacob Rees-Mogg, who contested the constituency - not with notable success - in 1997 and, interviewed by someone from The Times, contributed this: "My nanny will come up to campaign for me and look after me. I could not survive without her." He is now a Tory MP, even if he makes Boris Johnson look like Dennis Skinner. We have been warned what the alternative to fine organisations such as West Fife Enterprise is likely to be.


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