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ScottishPower to add 300 jobs

The company will also upgrade its electricity network over the next 10 years.

The company will also upgrade its electricity network over the next 10 years.

A day after announcing it was lowering gas prices, ScottishPower said today it will add 300 engineering and technical jobs and will spend more than £5b upgrading its electricity network in central and southern Scotland over the coming decade.

"The move to the low carbon economy, from modern and efficient electricity networks to new renewable energy generation will be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation," ScottishPower Chairman Ignacio Galan said in a statement.

One third of the new jobs will go to young people, with the creation of 50 apprenticeships and 50 slots in a graduate programme; the remaining additional 200 jobs will be engineering positions.

The company will also spend £6.5m between now and 2013 establishing partnerships with colleges and universities, developing pre-apprenticeship programmes and sponsoring post-graduate scholarships. Four of five energy industry workers will retire over the next 15 years, according to National Skills Academy for Power figures.

First Minister Alex Salmond said, in a statement:

Scotland's energy sector has the potential to reindustrialise this country and provide work for tens of thousands of Scots in the years to come. This kind of investment in training is critical to create the new generation of skilled workers to power our low carbon future - and it's something that is also a top priority for the Scottish Government.

ScottishPower joined the other "big six" UK energy companies in lowering prices yesterday when it announced a 5 per cent drop in gas prices.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.