YOUTH unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 48 per cent in the last three years, Derek Mackay has said.

The Finance Secretary made the announcement yesterday during his speech at the SNP conference, saying the Scottish Government had smashed its own target four years early.

The latest ONS Labour Force Survey shows that youth unemployment, excluding those in full-time education, fell from 52,000 in 2014 to 27,000 in 2017, a decrease of 48.3 per cent.

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Mackay said the goal in the Scottish Government’s Developing the Young Workforce strategy was to cut youth unemployment by 40 per cent between 2014 and 2021.

He also said he and Graeme Smith of the STUC had written to Chancellor Philip Hammond calling on the Treasury to lift the pay cap for all public-sector workers.

Though the Scottish Government has already committed to lifting the one per cent cap, the size of any pay rise will be determined by what Hammond does.

“In Scotland we know high-quality public services rely on dedicated, hard-working public servants,” Mackay said. “But there is something I must make clear: if austerity is not lifted, our ability to offer the kind of deal we might want to will remain constrained, no matter what powers we use.

“The majority of our budget is still determined by decisions in London. That is why the UK Government must lift the cap across the UK, and fund the pay rise people deserve.”

Hammond, he said, must “ignore the austerity-obsessed right-wingers in the Cabinet and do the right thing for public services by unlocking investment.”

He added: “But let me be repeat – come what may, we lift the pay cap.”

In their letter, Mackay and Smith told the Chancellor: “The latest forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility, reinforced in a report by the respected Fraser of Allander Institute ... indicate that the UK Government is on course to achieve its fiscal mandate with £26 billion of fiscal headroom in 2020-21, providing greater flexibility to increase public spending.

“We call on you to use any fiscal headroom you have to boost public services and the economy by reversing planned cuts in expenditure, lifting the one per cent pay cap for all public service workers, and providing sufficient funds to invest in public services and provide sufficient resources for pay rises across the UK which at least match inflation.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said: “The finance minister has the power in his hands to take a different path from Tory austerity, yet has repeatedly refused Labour’s demands to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

“The only party that offers not just talk, but action on ending austerity in Scotland is Labour.”

Hammond will deliver his budget on November 22.