STUC chief Roz Foyer warns it is 'dangerous' to block all paths to Scottish independence

Scotland’s most senior trade unionist has said it is “dangerous” for pro-UK parties to block all routes to independence.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer, who declined to say how she voted in the 2014 referendum, said independence is an “unresolved” issue.

She also said she wants an incoming Labour Government to look at devolving the power over employment legislation “very quickly”.

Humza Yousaf is under pressure from the pro-independence movement on the strategy for Scotland leaving the UK.

The Tory government and Labour have ruled out a joint deal on indyref2 and the Supreme Court closed the door on a Holyrood-only referendum.

The First Minister’s current policy is to claim that winning a majority of seats at the general election will amount to a mandate.

Foyer, who is sympathetic to a multi-option referendum, told the Record: "I think it’s an unresolved issue and the STUC very much believes it is important there is a democratic route that people can use, should they wish to express the wish to have another referendum.”

She said of the pro-UK parties refusing to discuss the path to independence: "That can be a very dangerous place to end up in when you are not allowing people to express their wishes in a democratic manner.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has spoken in favour of beefing up Holyrood’s powers, but his UK colleagues are lukewarm.

Foyer said: “There is a missed opportunity here for actually having a positive offer to make to Scotland’s voters who very much do still see the constitution as an issue. There could have been a stronger offer.”

She agrees with Sarwar that devolving power over employment legislation should happen after a Labour Government boosts workers’ rights across the UK.

But she is more impatient than Sarwar and says “phase two” of handing more powers to MSPs should happen “very quickly indeed.”

Roz Foyer, General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress
Roz Foyer, General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress -Credit:Daily Record

Starmer’s pan-UK workers’ rights package includes banning “exploitative” zero hours contracts and axing recent Tory legislation curbing the unions.

She said she is “really enthusiastic” about the plan and is critical of suggestions Starmer may water down the proposals:

“I’m quite heartened by some of the reassurances that we’ve received in recent weeks from the top of the Labour party.

“There has been a reiteration of the commitment that the New Deal will be delivered in full and I have to say that we would expect nothing less. This is one area that is, absolutely as trade unions are concerned, not up for negotiation.”

She was also critical of the Scottish Government’s funding settlement for local councils, claiming more cash will need to be provided for a fair pay deal for local authority workers.

Asked if she believed the Government had starved councils of resources, she said:

“Yes, I do. Local government has faced serious cuts and they have seen the impact of austerity over the past ten years and more now, and it has to stop.”

She said of Yousaf’s first year in charge of the country:

“I would say that we need to see more delivery on some of the commitments made. The direction of the commitments made was good, but half measures are not good enough.”

“Tinkering with our income tax is not going to provide the level of answers we need to redistribute wealth within our economy. I think we need a bolder approach.”

She also hit out at a Budget which critics say contained little to combat poverty:

“Overall we were very disappointed with the Scottish Government.”

“I do think that if we get an incoming Labour government, regardless of messaging or how they are framing it, we will see more public sector expenditure and that will have a positive effect on the budget for the Scottish Government.

She said of the SNP-led Government: “They also need to take responsibility for the powers that they have here in Scotland and stop blaming Westminster.

“I’m only going to accept the ‘blame Westminster’ argument when I know they have exhausted every possible avenue within the powers that are already devolved to them. And I don’t believe they are doing that to redistribute wealth.”

SNP MSP Collette Stevenson said: “I welcome Scotland's most senior trade unionist affirming that there should be a democratic route open to the people of Scotland to choose our own future. It's now for Anas Sarwar to confirm if he agrees with Roz Foyer that blocking such a path is dangerous.

“The SNP will have independence on page one, line one of our manifesto. Scotland can unlock a wealthier, fairer and greener future with independence. In contrast, Labour and the Tories want Scotland to continue to decline under Westminster control.

“The SNP will always stand up for Scotland and defend Scotland's right to choose its own future. That's why it has to be the SNP at this year's election.”

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