WE are clearly into general election time as Chancellor Sajid Javid announces a National Living Wage rising to £10.50 an hour and £500 million for a new Youth Investment Fund to create new youth centres and other help for young people to improve their lives.

The public should think about how generous these giveaways are after a decade of austerity has increased poverty, trapping workers and especially young workers in zero hours employment with no career prospects. The small print of pre-election government announcements should be read very carefully. The wage rise is only 95p an hour over the next five years and only applies to those aged 25 or over, with a promise that it might include those of 21 or over.

Who knows what the financial meltdown we all face because of Brexit over the next five years? Ninety-five pence an hour is never going to compensate for that. There are horrendous problems facing children and young people, especially in English cities, with murders and knife crime, massive child and youth mental health increases, rising suicide rates and record levels of children excluded from schools, because of underfunding of local governments and charities.

The £500 million for youth work over five years will barely make a dent in the problems south of the border, where 264 youth centres have closed and 500 youth workers have lost their jobs in recent times.

Around £49 million of Youth Investment Fund money would come to Scotland, where youth work has been decimated over the last two decades. I managed Scotland’s biggest youth centre, with 10 full-time and 25 part-time staff working with 1,500 teenagers, and 30 youth groups and bands also using it. It now has only two full-time staff and volunteers providing a limited service to around 150 young people.

The infrastructure of professional youth work has all but gone in Scotland. The £49 million, spread over five years, will have to be spread very thinly if we are to support children and young people facing homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, serious mental health issues, school exclusions and lack of real jobs. It is of course election time, so none of this might ever happen.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow G1

IN the 18th century corruption was at least honest. The person wishing election passed you a brown envelope and you gave him your vote. It was his personal donation to ensure his re –election.

Fast forward to our current Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor and their own great breakthrough in political philosophy: “Don’t use your own money to bribe. Use someone else’s”. In this case, business. The Chancellor promises a rise in the Living Wage, and the Shadow Chancellor a cut in hours and no decrease in pay. What marvellous concepts. Truly, the Magic Money Tree has arrived.

True, it will drive many businesses, particularly on the High Street, to the wall. True, it means that much of the economy is now wage-controlled. True, it crucifies UK competitiveness. True, many of the wage increases are in fact in the public sector and thus (in the end) will have to be paid for by tax increases on the very people who have just had a pay rise.

And it is true, of course – and the biggest dirty secret of all these false promises – that with employers’ and employees’ National Insurance at some 25 per cent, and base rate tax at 20 per cent, the single biggest beneficiary of these forced pay rises will be HM Government.

But who cares? It is only business that is hammered and as our current Prime Minister so memorably said ‘---- business’. After all, we are in the business of getting elected, and who cares about the collateral carnage we cause in so doing? Who cares about the damage to wealth production and employment?

They really should show much more ambition in their promises. Why don’t they just take the next logical step and promise that everyone will be paid above the average wage? Yes, it is fantasy but at least it is honest fantasy.

Hugh Andrew, Managing Director, Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh