Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery


Scott Arthur asks why the SNP have extend the living wage to public sector contacts after blocking Labour’s move to do just that last year.

At the second reading of the Procurement Reform Bill in May 2014, SNP members blocked a Labour amendment to deliver the Living Wage for workers employed by private companies on public contracts. Let’s be clear, this Labour amendment would have meant that firms bidding for public sector contracts would have been expected to pay employees the living wage.
At the time Kezia Dugdale MSP said:

“The introduction of this measure would not only have boosted earnings for minimum wage workers by over £2000 a year, it would have shown a real commitment to equality.”

James Kelly MSP added that the amendment would have given:

“a rise to many of £2,600 a year. 64% of these people are women, so this is an opportunity not only to help women but an opportunity to tackle low pay in public contracts.”

So why didn’t the SNP agree to this Labour amendment which would have cut inequality and sent a strong message to employers right across Scotland? Rather than taking responsibility for their own decision, they blamed the EU. Alex Salmond, the then First Minister, said:

“EU law prevents both us and local authorities from making the living wage a requirement in public sector contracts.”

Nicola Sturgeon also blamed the EU:

“I want to ensure we abide by the [EU] law and that we don’t put our public bodies at that risk of being taken to court.”

The awkward thing for the SNP was that the EU was listening and made it clear that EU law was “not preventing it”. They did say that employers could contest Holyrood on the issue, but “what firm worth their salt would want to run up a massive bill going to court to demand the right to pay workers less?”.

Yesterday in Perth at around 2pm Kezia Dugdale gave the speech of a lifetime.  Its focus was how Scottish Labour would make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous country. It was packed with progressive policies and is a clear challenge to anyone in Scotland who thinks Holyrood does not have the power to make Scotland fairer, or who talks left, but walks right.
At midnight yesterday the SNP responded. They did not respond by attacking the speech, but by adopting a key labour policy which they had voted against last year. You guessed it, they said that firms bidding for public sector contracts will be expected to pay employees the living wage.
So well over a year after they blocked Labour’s amendment and blamed the EU, they have backtracked and decided that workers in Scotland delivering public sector contracts do deserve a fair wage after all. What took them so long?

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15 thoughts on “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

  1. I have been banging this drum for so long, I’m glad the SNP have finally changed their view on this even if it has taken them a year. The main issue is though how is this monitored and reviewed and enforced? I undertook some research last year on the new 2014 bill and asked 32 local authorities how they monitored social criteria included in contracts. The answer unsurprisingly was non of them monitored or enforced the provisions of the contracts which had social criteria such as a living wage for example. The contracts will need to be drafted well and include penalties and redistribution clauses to have real affect. Contractors staff will also need to be able to report non compliance without threat from Empolyers as well. Good start, but a lot of work do.

  2. You will have to provide a source for this claim. Nothing comes up on Google for it. We need context in order to evaluate the veracity of your claim. On 16/9/15, the SNP said;

    “The Bill provides for statutory guidance on how purchasers should take account of a company’s approach to recruitment and terms of engagement (which would include pay) of staff when assessing the suitability of a company to bid”.

    This is obviously not new and it covers your claim. Also, you say;

    ” They (the EU) did say that employers could contest Holyrood on the issue, but what firm worth its salt would want to run up a massive bill going to court to demand the right to pay their workers less”?

    Firstly, “employers could contest” more than implies legal proceedings could be brought. Secondly, loads of private companies would be willing to pay loads in legal fees to save loads more in pay. Thirdly, many smaller companies (as in, those local companies who employ very few people and work on a shoe-string) would find it difficult to bid for public contracts. Fourthly, they would be demanding the right to pay their workers the SAME as they always were, NOT less.

    As I said,please provide a source for this claim. Labour have previous on “misleading” people on such things.

      1. But the Scottish govt is not “requiring” private contractors to pay the living wage. It is only introducing guidelines which allow public bodies to take the terms and conditions of the private workforce into consideration among all the other criteria. Therefore avoiding the legal problems.

        As your article points out, the EU agrees that to do otherwise would invite legal proceedings against any public body denying a contract on the basis of an arbitrary (no legal standing) rate of pay alone.

        The legal risk of “Scottish” Labour’s plan IS just as real in 2015 as it was in 2014.

      2. Having thought a little more on this subject,it appears Labour are being a tad dishonest here.

        When I Googled this subject, all I could find was the little tid-bit I posted initially which was from over a month ago. That clearly calls into question the veracity of Mr Scott’s claim they only adopted this policy at the weekend after Dugdale’s wee speech.

        Yesterday I heard on the news that the policy outlined was being enacted at this time simply because it was always due to be. This further under-mines the credibility of Mr Scott’s claim that it is new and a reaction to Dugdale.

        It then becomes clear that this is not a new policy at all. It is the policy Labour were unhappy with in 2014. Therefore, it is not the Scottish govt which has u-turned, it is Labour that has done so as the policy they were against last year is the same policy Mr Scott now laughably tries to claim was their’s all along.

  3. So..can we assume that this will mean that Labour-controlled or led local authorities will be instructed to settle equal pay claims from their female employees with no further delay, rather than dragging their feet as they have been doing for years?

  4. Well done to all the comrades for knocking Trident on the head.
    Put that to a referendum of Scottish voters.

    1. Graham, I think you will find Trident is still there today, and will still be there tomorrow, and all the other tomorrows.
      Even with a referendum.
      The ONLY way to rid ourselves of Trident is to become a self governing country, as Keir Hardie wanted.
      The vast bulk of the £167 billion for renewal, is to be spent in England on construction and maintenance ( thanks to Malcolm Rifkind). MP’s in Cumbria and Plymouth will not give up on that kind of spending just because we don’t want WMD’s based on the Clyde.

    2. Wouldn’t a referendum on Trident renewal just lead to more division in a country trying to heal the wounds of the independence referendum? And to what purpose? The Tory government wouldn’t heed the result.We had a general election just a few months ago.More than ninety percent of voters voted for parties committed to Trident renewal.

      1. In Scotland, the majority voted for parties opposed to Trident. If you include “Scottish” Labour (and why not for a laugh), quite a sizable majority.

        1. Little more than a year ago Scotland voted to remain in the UK and in doing so accepted that defence is a matter for Westminster.If they wanted different they would have voted different.Westminster will decide on whether or not to renew Trident.Scottish representatives will get one vote each like everybody else.

          1. Sorry Kev. I forgot my station there. I’ll just sit down, shut up and eat my cereal like a good Scot. I know I shouldn’t question my betters.

    3. Comrade I dont think that Trident is knocked on the head the split between Scottish Labour and the Labour Party UK has made matters worse because there can only be one manifesto position in an a general election and we will have to stand on that manifesto, so If the current Labour Party UK position remains the same as it is now for the renewal of Trident despite what we say in Scotland it will be irrelevant. The only hope is to breakaway completly from the Labour Party UK and form a new Scottish Independent Labour Party.

  5. Scott,

    “2015 Yesterday in Perth at around 2pm Kezia Dugdale gave the speech of a lifetime.”

    Comrade the speech went down well with lots of applause but it was to and from supporters what I am still trying to get over was the lack of applause and silence on Question Time the other night never seen anything like this before it may be an ominous sign of things to come.

    “They did not respond by attacking the speech, but by adopting a key labour policy which they had voted against last year. You guessed it, they said that firms bidding for public sector contracts will be expected to pay employees the living wage.”

    Comrade it is to our credit that we are working construcively for the people of Scotland so anything the SNP lifts from Scottish Labour is a good thing so keep up the good work.

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