The general secretary of the Scotland’s largest trade union body called for the Scottish Government not to implement the UK Government’s controversial trade union bill.
Speaking to an audience of trade unionists in Glasgow’s Trades Hall on Wednesday evening, Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: “Our demands are clear: the Scottish Government, as far as possible, must not implement this Tory strikes bill.”
Ms Foyer called for employment law to be devolved to the Scottish Government in a blistering speech marking a national day of co-ordinated strike action – which saw half a million people across the UK down tools.
“The incoming UK Labour government must ensure this never happens again; repeal this Bill and devolve employment law to the Scottish Parliament,” she added.
"Our demands are clear: the Scottish Government, as far as possible, must not implement this Tory #StrikesBill
— STUC (@ScottishTUC) February 1, 2023
But speaking to the PA news agency following the rally, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar ruled out devolving all employment law to the Scottish Government.
“We’ve actually campaigned for and advocated for devolution of more employment rights here in Scotland and we’ve argued that case previously,” he said.
“But what’s really important to stress is: if we have an incoming Labour government, we will want a Labour government to be delivering a programme of [improved employment rights] right across the country.”
Addressing the rally, Mr Sarwar told attendees that Labour in Scotland would “never question whether we should be on a picket line”.
He said: “We were born out of the trade union movement and of course the Labour Party should aspire to be a party of government, but it should always be a party of labour.”
He hit out at SNP MSPs for crossing a picket line at the Scottish Parliament, saying business “should have been suspended”.
He added: “If our parliament staff can’t go to work because they are striking, if our public cannot get into the gallery because it’s regarded as a safety risk to do so, then our MSPs should not be in that parliament either.”
However, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said of SNP MSPs crossing the Scottish Parliament picket lines that he did not think it went against the party professing to defend the right to strike.
He said: “I think it would be a fairly dangerous precedent to set.
“It’s important for democracy to ensure the government can be scrutinised.”
Mr Flynn said he was “hopeful” a resolution could be found in the ongoing teachers’ pay dispute and paid tribute to his wife, who is a teacher, calling them “some of the best people in society” for ensuring the next generation was educated.
Both Labour and the SNP committed to doing whatever they could do defeat the bill, with Mr Sarwar saying he was happy to work across party lines in order to do so.