A LEADING economist has warned the coronavirus pandemic has created an "absolute crisis for the young" and its fallout will be "incomparably worse" than the financial crash.

Professor David Blanchflower said governments should throw "the kitchen sink, and maybe the kitchen" at tackling it, and pointed to unrest on the streets of American cities such as Portland.

He suggested Scottish universities could even "forget about the grades" and accept every young person who has applied.

He said: "I don't think I could say to you as a labour economist...that I have ever seen, really in my lifetime, lights flashing more red than this for the young.

"If this is not a wake-up call, I don't know what is."

Prof Blanchflower, who is a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, made the comments while giving evidence to Holyrood's Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee.

It came as business leaders warned the latest jobless figures may be only a “taste of things to come”, after Scotland suffered more than the rest of the UK.

The Office for National Statistics reported the number of people in work north of the Border fell 15,000 between April and June as the coronavirus lockdown took effect. 

Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5 per cent with 124,000 out of work, compared to a UK-wide unemployment rate of 3.9%.

Scotland’s employment rate fell to 74.3% over the quarter, compared to 76.4% UK-wide.

However the UK figure included the biggest fall in employment in a decade, with the number of people in work down 220,000, the most since the financial crash of 2009.

The number of people claiming universal credit across the UK due to unemployment or low pay has now risen 117% to 2.7m between March and July.

The figures do not include the millions of people supported through the UK Government's furlough scheme, which runs out in October.

Britain will be officially declared in recession for the first time since the financial crisis on Wednesday when figures are set to show the pandemic sent the economy plunging by a record 21% between April and June.

The ONS is expected to confirm the mammoth second quarter contraction, the worst in Western Europe, and the UK's nosedive into recession after a 2.2% fall in the first three months of 2020.

Prof Blanchflower, who is based at Dartmouth College in the US, urged MSPs to focus on the young.

He said: "We have a bunch of 16-year-olds just leaving school now, and this looks like a disaster."

He added: "The consequences of young people not being able to get a foothold into the labour market are long-lasting.

"The way to think of it is, this generates permanent scars not temporary blemishes, and if there's one group we need to focus on right now, it's the young."

He continued: "I think one thing you ought to have in your mind as well is some of the things we're seeing in America – Chicago yesterday, Portland and elsewhere.

"What we're starting to see is unrest on the streets. Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with young people. The surprise in the past has been that the young have been compliant."

Prof Blanchflower said universities can play a big role, while solutions should be locally-targeted.

He said: "If we look at the last recession and say that might have been bad, this is going to be incomparably worse."

He added: "I think we should throw the kitchen sink and everything we have at it – the kitchen sink, and maybe the kitchen."

The economist suggested the first priority should be young people leaving school.

He said: "My view would be, we focus on them, we try and think about programmes for them.

"If it means you go to Anton Muscatelli [principal of Glasgow University] and you say, go and take 10,000 kids in – maybe we even take every single person who applied to a Scottish university, forget about the grades, take everybody, just take everybody."

Prof Blanchflower later compared the situation to being at war, adding: "If it was a war, you wouldn't say we can't fund it."

Announcing £10m of support for apprentices, SNP business minister Jamie Hepburn said Scottish ministers "continue to call on the UK Government to extend the Job Retention Scheme".