AS MANY retailers and other non-essential businesses re-opened this week, the economic crisis that is set to follow the public health crisis came increasingly to the fore.

Latest official statistics show that the level of 16-24-year-olds claiming unemployment benefits has almost doubled between February and May, rising to 7.1 per cent.

A report from independent economic thinktank the Fraser of Allander Institute said the country was now in its deepest recession in living memory, with a minimum of 18 months before the economy recovers to pre-pandemic levels.

It is deeply worrying that Scotland’s working population is already suffering so much at the very start of this economic crisis.

The recently published Higgins economic recovery report reiterated the importance of a Jobs Guarantee Scheme, warning that workers under the age of 25 are two and half times more likely than those aged 25 and older to work in sectors that have been shut down in response to Covid-19.

Scottish Labour has been calling for such a scheme since the start of the crisis.

We want the Scottish Government to work with employers and trade unions to develop a jobs guarantee scheme paying at least the living wage and offering a secure job or training place to any worker who has been unemployed for the long term.

Young people have been especially hit by the lockdown of the economy, and as we see a fragile recovery we expect more people on furlough will face unemployment.

That is why we need to act fast to ensure Covid-19 does not result in the return of mass unemployment and all the damage that does to the fabric of society.

We urgently need a plan for the economy and jobs and an industrial strategy with manufacturing at its heart.

If we fail to act now we face losing a whole generation to the blight of unemployment.

This is not just a question of economics, it is a question of doing the right thing.