Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Seòmar agus comataidhean

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Devolution of Employment Law

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-10491, in the name of Keith Brown, on devolution of employment law. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament considers that anti-trade union legislation, such as the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022, and the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, poses a significant risk to workers’ rights, including in the Clackmannanshire and Dunblane constituency; believes that a progressive approach to industrial relations along with greater, not fewer, protections for workers is at the heart of a fairer and stronger economy; further believes that trade unions are key social partners in delivering economic and social aspiration, and that they are vital for ensuring that the voices of workers are heard; welcomes that the TUC has recently backed a motion calling for the devolution of employment law to Scotland and a repeal of all current anti-trade union legislation; considers that devolution of employment law is supported by the majority of current MSPs; notes the calls on the UK Government not to further erode what it sees as the hard-won rights of workers; further notes its commitment to working in partnership to entrench and build on these rights, and notes the calls for employment law to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament immediately.


Keith Brown (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

I rise to speak to the motion. It calls for the devolution of employment law, which is something that aligns with the Scottish Government’s commitment to a fairer and stronger Scotland, with the right to fair work at its heart. However, the motion is important for all of Scotland, especially those areas where the history of industrial action runs deep, such as my constituency of Clackmannanshire and Dunblane.

Clackmannanshire holds a significant place in the history of industrial action in Scotland, as one of the focal points of the miners strikes of the 1970s and 1980s. We must never forget those who, in their fight for fairer wages and safer working conditions, all too often found themselves the victims of the actions of particularly callous and uncaring United Kingdom Governments. The memory of the Clackmannanshire strike serves as a stark reminder of the challenges that workers endured before the creation of this Scottish Parliament, and I know that that history will resonate with many members in the chamber, and with many communities across Scotland.

For too long, successive UK Governments have legislated against the right of Scottish workers to take industrial action. The motion highlights two pieces of legislation: the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 and the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, both of which pose “a significant risk” to the rights of workers in Scotland and across the UK. Those regulations represent yet another attempt by the UK Government to curtail the right of workers to take industrial action to protect the dignity of their labour.

Trade unions are an essential part of our democracy, and are absolutely necessary in ensuring that the voice of working people is heard. Having served as a trade union representative myself, I will always speak up for the right of workers to engage in industrial action. Scotland’s history is filled with examples of successful collective action, such as the upper Clyde shipyard work-ins, led by the indomitable Jimmy Reid. Such instances continue to stand as testament to the power of industrial action not only in Scotland but around the world.

The creation of a Scottish Parliament has allowed Scotland to right some of the historical wrongs that were perpetrated on working people by the UK Government, by implementing measures such as pardoning those who were convicted during the miners strike. I was very proud to take that legislation through this Parliament, and proud that the measure had relatively unanimous support.

The Scottish Government’s record in collaborating with trade unions rather than working against them speaks for itself. The notable absence of any national health service strikes in Scotland over the past year, unlike in other UK nations, should not be dismissed. It is a clear indication that the Scottish Government’s approach of actively engaging with trade unions works.

Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

Does the member characterise the relationships with the Educational Institute of Scotland, Unison and the GMB and other trade unions in schools and in further and higher education in the same way as he has just characterised the relationship in other areas?

Keith Brown

I am sorry—I did not hear the first part of what Pam Duncan-Glancy said. She mentioned a number of trade unions working together. I am happy to come back to that if she wants to come back in.

As I have said, the Scottish Government works collaboratively with trade unions; that has been my experience during the days when I was in—[Interruption.]

Mr Brown, can you please resume your seat for a second? Mr Marra, please do not do that across the floor—thank you.

Mr Brown, please continue.

Keith Brown

The devolution of employment law, which the motion calls for, would allow us to take that constructive approach even further. It is for that reason that an increasing number of trade unions across the UK now back the devolution of employment law. I am pleased to say that the UK-wide Trades Union Congress recently followed the Scottish Trades Union Congress in calling for employment law to be devolved to Scotland, as well as calling for the repeal of all anti-trade union legislation—two measures that the Scottish Government supports but which it does not currently have the power to deliver.

Given that both the STUC and the UK TUC stand behind the devolution of employment law in their support for workers and for devolution, I would like to make known my feelings of utter disappointment and dismay at the recent announcement from the deputy leader of the UK Labour Party that the party has now scrapped its previous commitment to devolving employment law.

I have with me a printed copy of Scottish Labour’s 2021 manifesto, on which the 22 Labour MSPs were elected. On page 30, it states in no uncertain terms:

“We support further devolution of powers to”


“including borrowing and employment rights”.

Members can imagine my shock, therefore, when the Daily Record broke the news last week that an email had been sent around all the Labour MSPs, advising them not to sign the motion for today’s debate, a motion that might or might not in fact support one of their own policies. Why would they not want to support something that absolutely reflects their own policies, unless it is the case that they do not mean it at all?

It reminded me of something that happened a long time ago, when I was a councillor in Alloa. I put up a motion that congratulated Alloa Athletic on winning promotion to a higher division. It was opposed by the Labour Party—when I asked the Labour councillors afterwards why, they said, “Well, it was the SNP that proposed it.” They went back at a future meeting and agreed the motion, having changed one word of it.

It was what became known as the Bain principle, which is, “If the SNP proposes it, you cannot accept it.” In doing the same here, however, Labour members are, in this case, flying in the face of the rights of employees and the need for better employment law in Scotland.

Just days before a crucial by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, the Scottish Labour Party is back-pedalling on yet another of its fundamental principles, just to abide by the diktats of Keir Starmer’s UK Labour Party.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Keith Brown mentioned the TUC motion. Would he also acknowledge that a formal reservation was lodged, saying that a floor across the UK needed to be created before employment law could be devolved? That continues to be the Scottish Labour Party’s position, and it is a very important caveat. Does the member acknowledge that?

Keith Brown

Over the past number of years, I have listened to a number of Labour MSPs stating explicitly that they wanted to see employment law devolved to the Scottish Parliament. They now have caveats, and they are unwilling to support a straightforward motion that would help defend the rights of workers and trade unions in Scotland.

Will the member take an intervention?

Keith Brown

No—I do not have much time left, and I have given way twice in relation to this matter. That said, I am happy to give way again if the member can give me a compelling reason why he cannot support the terms of the motion in front of him, given that there is nothing in there that conflicts with Labour policy. If he is going to do that, I will give way.

Michael Marra

I certainly am.

The motion refers to the immediate devolution of employment law. As Mr Johnson has just set out, the Scottish Labour Party’s position is that there has to be a floor created across the UK, and then devolution, which is actually the TUC’s position—[Interruption.] It is the position of the TUC.

Keith Brown

I do not know whether the member thinks that those in trade unions and workers across Scotland will, in hearing those weasel words, give any credence to the Labour Party’s position, or see any reason not to support the motion, just because it is from the SNP. The motion

“calls on the UK Government not to further erode ... the hard-won rights of”



What we are stating is that those rights are not just for the benefit of workers, but for the betterment of society and our economy. Across the chamber, we can reaffirm this Parliament’s commitment to working in partnership with trade unions and to entrenching and building on those rights. Our workers deserve nothing less, and it is high time that we took control.

There is nothing in this that is contentious for the Labour Party—it has stated for a number of years now that that is what it wants to do. We can take control of our own destiny and craft a country where workers’ rights are valued; where fairness is the norm; and where the Scottish Parliament works in partnership with trade unions, rather than against them, to build a fairer, more just and prosperous Scotland. What we are getting from the Labour Party is an indication that it will support nothing. If it cannot do it in Opposition, it will certainly not do it in Government.

I ask the Parliament to support the motion in my name.


Kevin Stewart (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue today, and I pay tribute to Mr Brown for bringing the debate to the chamber. I certainly do not pay tribute to the Labour Party for its stance on the matter, and for failing to sign a motion that I would have thought it would have been running to sign.

It seems that, today, we have heard of a flip-flop from Labour on the devolution of employment law. In this chamber not so long ago, in an exchange with Pauline McNeill, she said that they would devolve it now. That is exactly what Mr Brown is calling for in his motion.

There was no word then—and today is the first that I have heard of it—about the creation of a floor before employment law can be devolved. I think that it is yet another Starmer flip-flop to which Scottish Labour has decided to kowtow. Scottish Labour members have taken their orders from Keir, which are: “Don’t rock the boat, and we will deal with this later.”

Michael Marra

Does the member not recognise, in lauding—rightly—the TUC’s position, that the TUC has made clear the caveat that there has to be an agreement across the UK to create such a floor, so that, as we believe, devolution can then further secure those rights in the long term?

I have not heard about any caveats from the STUC, and this is the first time that I have heard of that caveat from Labour—

Will the member take an intervention?

Kevin Stewart

No—I have taken Mr Marra’s intervention, and I do not want to hear any further flip-flopping from him.

With draconian legislation such as the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 and the anti-strike bill passed by the UK Parliament earlier this year, it is clear that protecting workers’ rights is more important than ever. Tory crackdowns on worker protections and the rights of unions have seen the UK’s global rating on workers’ rights fall. In the latest International Trade Union Confederation annual report on workers’ rights, the “2023 ITUC Global Rights Index”, the UK has dropped from a rating of 3, for countries where the ITUC considers there to be “Regular violations of rights”, to level 4, where it says that there are “Systematic violations”. It means that the UK has joined countries with a level 4 rating, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam—despotic regimes where, as we know, freedoms are not as great as they should be. We are now in the same league as such countries.

Scotland is already missing out on Europe’s enhancement of workers rights, thanks to Westminster’s hard Brexit. The same UK Government has ensured that the UK’s rate of sick pay is one of the worst in Europe. Workers have been subjected to years of neglect by the Tories, and it seems to me—and what we have heard today confirms my belief—that Labour offers no difference whatsoever. The only way to protect workers in Scotland is to devolve employment law to this Parliament. Indeed, the devolution of workers’ rights is backed by some of the biggest trade unions in the country, and by the STUC.

It is astonishing that not one Labour MSP has agreed with a motion that calls out Westminster’s anti-trade union legislation and the fact that it is agin workers’ rights. It is time for that devolution to take place; for us to treat our workers much more fairly; and for us to rise up those world rankings once again.


Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I begin by saying that I am sad to take part in another highly politicised members’ business debate. I am not aiming that at any individual, because I know that all parties have done this in the past; I just think that such debates are regrettable and not in the spirit of this chamber. Members’ business debates should provide a rare moment of consensus building, and I feel that those opportunities are being eroded.

On the substance of Keith Brown’s motion, I want to make some specific points. The politics of this debate are quite clear. The debate is about the differences between the Scottish National Party and Labour on the limits of devolution, with a by-election coming up next week. However, I should say that I spent much of my professional career as an employment lawyer—I should refer at this point to my entry in the register of members’ interests, which states that I am an advocate—in Scottish employment tribunals in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh, representing workers, employers and trade unions in cases of dismissal, redundancy and discrimination. It is, therefore, an area that I know a little about, and I have seen what happens at the sharp end when disputes, sadly, end up in litigation.

During that time, I learned one thing above all: the importance of a UK-wide system of employment law and a corresponding UK-wide tribunal structure to support and police it. What has been lost in this debate so far and needs restating today is the rationale behind why employment law has not been devolved, and why Conservative members support the status quo. The reason for that is, essentially, economic.

Is Donald Cameron aware that the one part of employment law that has been agreed to be devolved under the Smith convention deals with employment tribunals?

Donald Cameron

I am aware of that, and I am aware of the upgrade to the employment system involving the upper and lower tribunals that has taken place in the past 10 years.

Returning to my point, I was saying that the reason for Conservative members supporting the status quo is, essentially, an economic one. It is clear that having two separate systems of employment law in Scotland and England would create a headache for workers and businesses that operate on a cross-border basis, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. For example, there could be two different contracts of employment for those working between Scotland and England; businesses would have to monitor different sets of laws; and employees would have to adhere to different systems of regulation. That would lead to costs; logistical difficulties and complexity for workers and businesses and the suppression of the free flow of labour between Scotland and England.

Just as we need a UK-wide approach to the goods and services market, so, too, do we need a UK-wide approach to employment. As the former UK minister for labour markets, Jane Hunt, said:

“Office for National Statistics data from 2019 estimates that around 68,000 people work in Scotland and live in England, or vice versa. Devolving employment rights could therefore be highly disruptive for workers who work across the border.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 6 September 2022; Vol 719, c 50.]

Creating that divergence from existing UK-wide employment law would have significant ramifications, and stating those points does not mean that the rights of workers are somehow diminished by maintaining the status quo. We can still support fair work, the right to strike and equality rights; we can still pass legislation such as the pardoning of striking miners; we can still respect and support all of Scotland’s workers; and we can still ensure that, when any dispute arises over pay and conditions, Government engages with workers and their representatives to ensure that a fair deal is struck.

Conservative members support the rights of all Scotland’s workers. We want to continue to see a UK-wide approach to the labour market; we want to ensure that there can continue to be that free flow of labour; and, unlike others in this chamber, we will always work with business and employees to achieve that, rather than work against them.


Kaukab Stewart (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

I thank Keith Brown for bringing the debate to the chamber. It is fair to say that the situation that is faced by workers up and down the UK today is quite bleak. For most people, wage increases are struggling to make up for the massive decrease in the value of the money in their bank accounts, and the role that trade unions can play is under attack. Meanwhile, practices such as unpaid work trials and exploitative zero-hours contracts remain the norm in some sectors.

Thirteen years of Tory policy making has certainly made a difference, and I do not think that anyone would claim that that difference has been for the better. Where the situation remains bleak is with the Labour Party. Keir Starmer might be the Prime Minister in waiting, but what difference does it make? The past few months have shown Labour’s hand and revealed that the party is engaged in a race to the bottom on issues such as immigration, welfare and Brexit.

Daniel Johnson

Is the member aware that Labour has promised to legislate within 100 days on a new deal for working people, which would, in the words of the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, transform workers’ rights up and down the UK?

Kaukab Stewart

I am aware that Labour makes many policy suggestions on which it regularly goes on to flip-flop and U-turn. There is still no suggestion that Labour would hold true to any of the promises that it makes on improving the lives and conditions of workers across the UK. However, the question whether Scotland should have the ability to take different decisions when it comes to employment is what we are discussing today.

I would like to bring members’ attention to one specific area in which I take a deep interest: the ability of asylum seekers to work while they are applying to remain in the UK. That cuts across the two reserved areas of employment and immigration. Flatly speaking, asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK while their applications are being processed. As members are likely aware, the process is long, with most applications taking more than six months. There are very limited circumstances in which the Home Office says that asylum seekers can seek employment. For example, if a person has been waiting for more than 12 months for a decision and the Home Office deems that the delay is not the applicant’s fault, they can seek employment, but only from the UK Government’s restrictive shortage occupation list. That said, the Home Office will not provide data on the number of asylum seekers who have been granted permission to work, so there is no way for us to scrutinise that. The system makes no sense.

The financial support that is given to asylum seekers by the UK Government is extremely low—less than £50 a week. If they were able to work, they would be able to pay taxes. It is easy to conclude, therefore, that the reason why the system exists must be down to ideology, not pragmatism. To be clear, it was Labour that, in 2002, restricted asylum seekers’ ability to apply for work. The ability to apply to work after 12 months was introduced in 2005, but only to comply with European Union law. Thereafter, in 2010, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats further restricted what work asylum seekers could do by limiting it to those jobs on the shortage occupation list.

UK Governments of every hue have let down asylum seekers and the communities that they reside in. These are people from a range of backgrounds and professions, and they want to be able to contribute. Their inability to do so is to our detriment as much as it is to theirs. Sadly, we are living with a UK system that imposes a hostile environment on those who come here—a hostile environment that was actually introduced by the Labour Government under Tony Blair in 2007 and was then continued and enhanced by the Conservatives.

Asylum seekers just want to provide for their families. They just want a bit of dignity as they navigate an often demoralising and elongated application system. They deserve to do that safe in the knowledge that they will be treated equally and in compliance with fair work principles.

The Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, which I convene, recently concluded an inquiry into the lived experience of asylum seekers in Scotland. The report will be published soon, and it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on its contents, but I hope that the committee’s work on the issue will help to inform Government policy on asylum seekers and their ability to integrate and contribute.

The current system provides a perpetual stream of missed opportunities. I have no doubt that an independent Scotland would make better choices on employment, on how we treat workers and on how we treat those who come here.

Ms Stewart, could you conclude, please? You are quite over your time, and we have a number of speakers in this debate.

Short of independence, the UK should devolve to Scotland our ability to make policy in those areas.


Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Let me begin with where we absolutely unequivocally agree. I agree that we strengthen the economy by improving workers’ rights, and that is exactly what a Labour Government would seek to do for the whole of the UK, not just for parts of the UK. Labour’s new deal for working people, which is a commitment to legislate within 100 days, would do the following things. It would ban compulsory zero-hours contracts, outlaw fire and rehire, give workers day 1 rights on sick pay, parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal, and provide workers’ status for people, regardless of the type of employment, tackling directly the many issues that people face when they are working in the gig economy. Perhaps most important, we would raise the minimum wage so that it was a real living wage. That is exactly why Paul Nowak, the Trades Union Congress general secretary, said that the new deal for working people represents the

“biggest upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation.”

Does the member accept that workers in Scotland could have had all that nine years ago?

Let me be clear. What we need to do is to ensure that we have high standards for all workers throughout the UK. What we do not want to do is to create a situation in which there is a race to the bottom—

Will the member take an intervention?

Daniel Johnson

In a moment, Mr McKee. That is precisely why, when we have made our calls for devolution of employment law, it has been very clear that that would be within a regime that creates a floor, or a minimum set of standards. We said that in 2019 and in 2021. What is more—I am sorry that Mr Brown thinks that these are weasel words—Roz Foyer from the STUC said that

“A guaranteed minimum floor of workers’ rights across the UK is a prudent first step”

towards achieving devolution of employment law. Those are her words, not mine, and they were issued in September as a direct result of the TUC motion.

I am happy to give way to Ivan McKee.

Does Daniel Johnson think that having higher standards and higher employment rights in Scotland makes it more or less likely that standards will increase across the rest of the UK?

Daniel Johnson

What is important is that we have guaranteed minimum standards across the UK. If we had an open framework, which immediate devolution would create, we would create a race to the bottom, which is absolutely not in anyone’s interest, and certainly not in workers’ interests.

Let us be clear. Every time that Labour has been in government, we have made a difference to workers’ rights, whether it be protection from unfair dismissal, health and safety at work, equal pay legislation, the minimum wage or the Equality Act 2010. Every single Labour Government has not only made changes, it has made changes that no Government has been able to reverse. No Government has dared to unpick them. That is the difference that a Labour Government has made in the past, and it is the difference that a Labour Government will make again.

In closing, I want to reflect on something that Donald Cameron said. It is something of a sorry sight to see the SNP deputy party leader reduced to using a members’ debate to make such naked party-political attacks. However, it is also clear that that is a sign of the SNP’s desperation. It is scared of what an improved and strengthening Labour Party represents, because it prefers the status quo. It prefers having a Tory Government, so rather than fighting a Tory Government, it prefers to attack Labour. Rather than delivering, it prefers the politics of division. However, we are here to deliver for the whole of the UK rather than to create division, which is all that the SNP is ultimately interested in.


Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I think back to the Leith dockers strike in 1913, when campaigners, individuals and trade unionists took to the streets of Leith and pushed for better conditions for workers. They lived in a time of deep income inequality, as we do now. Today, I want to speak on behalf of my constituents, too many of whom are living in in-work poverty.

In 2017, we as a Parliament committed to addressing child poverty. During the period 2019 to 2022, 21 per cent of working-age adults were living in poverty after housing costs were accounted for. In that group, 69 per cent of children who were living in poverty were also living in working households. In addition, 24 per cent of children were living in relative poverty after housing costs were accounted for. That should concern us all.

Parliament and devolved Government have the capacity to make changes to public sector wage differentials and have done so, which is why we have successfully avoided strike action in a number of areas and provided a situation where public sector workers are better paid in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, which makes an impact on reducing poverty. However, for the four fifths of the working population who are in the private sector, although the Scottish Government can do a lot of persuasion and pushing of employers to do the right thing—and the drive towards the real living wage has made an important difference—it is binding a real living wage in the law that makes sure that private employers pay enough. That is the problem with the situation that we have in Scotland. Many of my constituents who come to me in real difficulty are in households where the working age adults work in the private sector.

We are absolutely right to push for those powers over fair work, in particular, to come to the Parliament. Whatever people’s thoughts are on the final destination of Scotland’s constitution and this institution, it is clear that, if Parliament is to protect our people from decisions that are made elsewhere in the UK, that have a negative impact in Scotland and are against the social democratic governance that Scotland has voted for consistently throughout my lifetime, employment powers, along with more financial and social security powers, need to come to this Parliament to deliver social justice.

It is not enough for Labour Party colleagues to say that, if and when we get a UK Labour Government, it will be able to do X, Y and Z. What about the years in between when our constituents are suffering from a lack of good working conditions and fair pay? That is not acceptable to me,

and it should not be acceptable to any of us on the centre left. We need employment powers to come to this Parliament. Yes, cross-border issues will need to be considered carefully. Any Scottish Government with the powers over employment law will need to exercise them thoughtfully and responsibly, but it is absolutely right that control over employment law should come to the Scottish Parliament, and any UK Government should be forthcoming in bringing a Scotland act during the forthcoming UK parliamentary session that delivers that. It is the right thing for social justice and for making sure that this Parliament has the suite of powers that we need to protect our constituents who, too often and in too many numbers, have been living in in-work poverty. It is not right and it needs to change.


Michael Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Keith Brown for affording Parliament the chance to have this debate on enhancing workers’ rights. I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests as a lifelong trade unionist and member of the Community trade union and the GMB.

There are two principal means by which the lives of ordinary Scots have improved since the start of the 20th century. First, we have had organised trade unionism, based on collective solidarity and the struggle for our fundamental human right to withhold our labour.

Secondly, there have been the Labour Governments that have been committed to a more equal country by investing in public services and in the public protection, through the law, of trade union rights as well as, crucially, their enhancement.

The next Labour Government will introduce legislation on a new deal for working people within its first 100 days in office. As cited by Mr Brown, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress has described Labour’s plans as “transformative” and

“the biggest upgrade of workers’ rights in a generation.”

Keith Brown

Under the most recent Labour Government, £4 billion was pillaged from the miners’ pension fund; no pardons were given to miners; and there was no end to blacklisting. Crucially, in 2015, 2017 and 2019, we were told that those things must wait until a Labour Government was elected. If we do not devolve employment law and Labour does not win the election, Scottish workers will continue to wait and will continue to be deprived of the enhanced rights that they could possibly get.

Michael Marra

I entirely agree with Mr Brown’s call that we need to defeat the Tory Government and get it out, and there is one way to deliver that. However, I am not entirely sure that I follow his logic with regard to how he sees those powers being devolved, given the Conservative Party’s position on the matter. The best way for the SNP to act—and, as deputy leader, Mr Brown could take this forward—is to do so in concert and in co-operation with the Labour Party to deliver those powers to Scotland, once we establish that floor across the UK.

Labour’s new deal for working people will repeal the Trade Union Act 2016, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 and other strike-breaking legislation; overhaul the laws that have restricted the fair operation of trade unions for working people in the UK; ban zero-hour contracts; outlaw fire and rehire; guarantee day 1 rights to sick pay, parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal; and ensure that the minimum wage is a liveable wage.

When did the last transformative upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation, to which the general secretary of the TUC refers, come? It came, of course, under the Labour Government, elected in 1997, which started by guaranteeing the legal right to join a trade union, service rights, holiday rights and paternity rights. It moved to outlaw much of the blacklisting across the UK and introduced a minimum wage for the first time in the history of these nations. That is not just a matter of history; all those rights are measures that are improving the lives of Scots today, and every single day. It is on that record that we stand, and it tells us that the new deal for working people will be delivered by a Labour Government.

Once the new common basis for rights is in place, Scottish Labour will seek to secure it against future Tory attacks through the devolution of employment law, with the maintenance of that UK-wide floor, so that it cannot be removed. Devolution will act as protection for progress and will ensure that we do not see the sort of race to the bottom on employment rights that has been seen by so many people in countries across the world.

I will close by talking about the conspicuous absence from Mr Brown’s motion of zero-hours contracts. Scotland has the highest rate of zero-hours contracts among people in employment in any part of the UK—and, worse still, a zero-hours contract is counted in SNP Scotland as a positive destination for school leavers. The SNP could do something about that today. After all, on what planet is insecure, precarious work a positive destination? Only last week, it was reported that the SNP was using workers on zero-hours contracts to distribute leaflets for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. It does not even have a zero-tolerance policy in its own party, let alone for the country. While the SNP equivocates and prevaricates, Labour is clear that we will end that scourge and deliver on our new deal for working people.


Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

I thank Keith Brown for securing this important debate on an issue in which I have taken a keen interest for many years. I am an active trade unionist, and I refer colleagues to my entry in the register of members’ interests as a member of Unite the union.

Back in 2014, devolution of employment legislation was something that featured regularly in debates and discussions on the kind of future that Scotland’s people wanted to see. I and many others argued that, although we did not necessarily need independence to progress workers’ rights, improve their conditions and secure better democracy in our workplaces, it would certainly make those things easier. In the 13 years of a UK Labour Government, there was no overturning in its entirety of the anti-trade union legislation that Thatcher had brought in decades before, and we were certainly not going to get progress under successive Tory Governments—but I digress.

The Smith commission conversations were interesting. I learned a lot about a range of things in those concentrated, sometimes heated, meetings. I learned how different people did politics; I learned about political negotiation; and I learned about tribalism. I learned about the intransigence that tribalism breeds, and I learned about the lowest common denominator politics that, it seemed, the Labour representatives on that commission were willing to promote.

When we—the Greens and the SNP members of that commission—proposed the devolution of employment law, the Labour representatives simply said no. No arguments were made about solidarity across borders, even though they had been made before the referendum vote itself. It was just no—no discussion, no nothing. It was almost saying no as a punishment—as a punishment of Scotland for daring to suggest that we could do better, a punishment of all of us who dared to imagine a better world and a punishment of hope. As time has moved on, it really does seem like it was a punishment of hope. Despite calls from the trade union movement and others on the left for something better, aligning with a Conservative Government and putting the fate of our workers in its hands seemed to be more appealing than working to create something better.

We know that there is no intrinsic reason why employment law cannot be devolved. Yes, it might be complicated, but, as Northern Ireland has shown, it is possible; after all, there is considerable divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Regressive changes in Great Britain have not been mirrored in the north of Ireland. That might be of interest to those who have been going on about a UK-wide system, given that such a system does not exist at the moment.

If Labour had not vetoed the devolution of employment law by collaborating with the Tories, we could now have had a real living wage, a total ban on zero-hours contracts and fire and rehire practices and the reinstatement of the employment and trade union rights that have been removed by the Tories. Those powers would make our efforts to bring children out of poverty, and our efforts to ensure a just transition so that communities are sustainable in every sense, so much easier. Stronger trade unions could be at the forefront of creating cohesive, co-operative societies and of standing up against exploitation. The vague possibility that a new Labour Government in London might repeal the worst of Tory anti-worker legislation is not a good enough reason to oppose the devolution of powers over employment law now, and it is certainly not—

The member should probably bring her remarks to a close.

Maggie Chapman

I am.

It is certainly not a good enough prospect for our workers and communities. Let us remember that we are governed by a Tory Government whose employment regulations last year were quashed by a court that found the secretary of state’s failure to carry out mandatory consultation to be

“so unfair as to be unlawful and, indeed, irrational.”

Our workers and communities are paying a heavy price for the tribal, lowest common denominator politics that sought, nine years ago, to punish hope. I wish that, instead, we had the option of building on that hope. That day cannot come soon enough.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Before I call the next speaker, I advise members that, due to the number of members who wish to speak in the debate, I am minded to accept a motion without notice, under rule 8.14.3 of standing orders, to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes. I invite Keith Brown to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Keith Brown]

Motion agreed to.


Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I start by referring to my entry in the register of members’ interests, which shows that I am a member of Unite, the GMB and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers parliamentary group and that I am convener of the Scottish Labour trade union group.

I thank Keith Brown for bringing this debate to the chamber. It is good to see so many members taking an interest in the subject, because we can agree that anti-trade union legislation is harmful to workers in Keith Brown’s constituency, in my Central Scotland region and right across the UK. Points have been made about the scourge of in-work poverty, too. I believe that most members in the chamber care about those issues.

The Labour movement, of course, believes in more protection for workers. Indeed, that is what informed my political thinking. Growing up in Blantyre, in Lanarkshire, as the daughter of a health and safety officer, I was shaped by what was happening to working-class communities such as mine, and those issues relating to the wellbeing of workers were what shaped my early political thinking.

Today, those issues matter more than ever. We have heard from members across the chamber about the epidemic of fire and rehire practices, zero-hours contracts and precarious work. People in my neighbourhood are working three jobs—and often more—just to make ends meet.

I listened carefully to Keith Brown, who spoke passionately about the industrial history of his Clackmannanshire and Dunblane constituency and his important work in pardoning miners, which brought people together across the chamber. It brought Neil Findlay and Richard Leonard from Labour together with Mr Brown and Michael Matheson, to name just a few, from the SNP. What is uncomfortable about this debate for some people is that, actually, there is more agreement here than many of us want to admit. I see a majority in this Parliament for repealing the anti-trade union law that is letting people down. It maybe sticks in the throats of some members to recognise that what Labour is trying to do at a UK level, with the new deal for working people, is about being transformative and progressive.

Of course, we are not at the election yet and we do not know what the outcome will be, but let us focus on the things that we do agree on. Scottish Labour has been very clear: Anas Sarwar has said that it is about a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Keith Brown

I acknowledge the sincerity with which Monica Lennon speaks on these issues, as she has done in the past. In fact, in 2021, she was explicit in saying that Scottish Labour was supportive of the devolution of employment law, so we do agree on that.

However, I put together the terms of my motion explicitly to crystallise that agreement. There is nothing in my motion that should dissuade Monica Lennon, who has a proud track record in relation to the issue, from supporting it. Why has she not done so? Does she believe that workers in Scotland should always wait on something happening elsewhere before they can get access to full employment rights?

Monica Lennon

I do not know how much extra time I can get, but it is a very important question. I am speaking in the debate, because I care deeply about the issues. I have not signed the motion, but I have not signed the amendment either, because I wanted to stand aside from some of the politicking that is going on. Mr Brown’s motion is a very good one, but I have underlined the word “immediately” at the very end of it, because I am not sure what it means. The fact is that there is no big button that we can press today to devolve employment law “immediately”.

Of course, the manifesto that Scottish Labour stood on in 2021 sets out a clear position, and that has been reinforced by the Scottish leader Anas Sarwar. There is no bit of paper between what we are saying with regard to the STUC, and the TUC, which represents 5.5 million workers across the UK. There is a lot of agreement there.

I have eaten into a lot of my time but, in response to Kevin Stewart, I would say yes, let us rise up the world rankings. However, as we have heard, Scotland is the zero-hours capital of the UK, so let us do something about that, too.

I started today on a picket line at Royal Mile primary school and, tomorrow, I will be on a picket line in Hamilton near where I live, with Unison workers. As Pam Duncan-Glancy has alluded to, people who work in higher and further education might hear about fair work, but they do not feel that it is happening for them. Indeed, people at City of Glasgow College have been made redundant under the guise of fair work.

Let us therefore work together to get a just transition and justice for all workers. We can have all of these debates during by-election campaigns just to make points but, actually, that sort of thing backfires on all of us. I will continue to find common agreement and cause, because workers right now do not need debates like this. What they need is money in their bank accounts.

Ms Lennon, please conclude.

I thank Keith Brown for the debate. If we can have such debates more often, that will be great, but let us not do it as a stunt. Let us do it because we actually believe in progressive politics.

Daniel Johnson

On a point of order, Deputy Presiding Officer. I apologise for the fact that I neglected to refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a member of the Community trade union and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.

On a point of order, Deputy Presiding Officer. I also neglected to refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a member of the Community trade union, GMB and Unison.

Both points of order will now be on the record.


Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)

I thank Keith Brown for bringing this important motion for debate this evening. It highlights the key issues of workers’ rights, fair pay and fair work, which we mostly agree on around the chamber, as well as the important aspects of devolution and the drawing of lines between those who believe that Scotland should have the right to legislate in that area and protect and enhance the rights of Scottish workers, and those who clearly do not.

I will start by addressing the Labour position. It has been described as flip-flopping, which it absolutely is. To present a position that says that we allegedly need a floor across the rest of the UK is misguided in a number of ways. [Interruption.]

I will finish my point in relation to the question that I asked Daniel Johnson. If we have the ability to raise standards in Scotland, how does that constitute a race to the bottom?

As Monica Lennon rightly said, it would constitute a race to the top, as it would allow Scotland to set the standard for the rest of the UK to follow. Scottish Labour should welcome that. As Keith Brown said, we have seen tonight Labour’s desire to have a go at the SNP’s position and to differentiate itself in some way from the SNP, and it puts that ahead of its concern for workers’ rights in Scotland and its support of the devolution settlement.

Michael Marra

Does Ivan McKee not recognise that the TUC and the STUC have said that the right approach is to ensure that there is a common floor across the UK, after which we can devolve employment law to ensure that we lock that in for the long term?

Ivan McKee

The reality is that, if Scotland has the ability to raise standards, it will drag the rest of the UK upwards, not the opposite. That is the important point to recognise and it is absolutely clear for anyone to see. That intervention shows not just the inability of Labour to grasp and support those ideas but, frankly, its inability to grasp basic economic principles.

Many aspects of this issue are important, but in the brief time that I have, I will focus on the minimum wage. Having the ability that we should have in Scotland to legislate on that is hugely important to tackling poverty and creating good jobs, and it is central to the vision of the wellbeing economy, with fair work at its heart.

We have seen a gradual reduction in the percentage of people earning less than the real living wage in Scotland, but that has been the result of hard work that has required pulling all kinds of unrelated levers that have a secondary impact through conditionality and other aspects that are being deployed. That is inefficient and is not the most effective way to do it. Allowing the Scottish Parliament to make decisions and legislate on the minimum wage and raise it at least to the level of the real living wage, is essential to helping us to raise workers’ standards and is central to tackling the poverty challenge that we face. Social security and other such measures will not, on their own, deliver what needs to be delivered to lift people in Scotland out of poverty.

Monica Lennon

I understand why political parties would critique the words and promises of other political parties, but there is an important issue about zero-hour contracts, because we can do more in Scotland right now. I am looking at a quote from Neil Gray, the wellbeing economy secretary, who, on 15 August this year, said:

“The Scottish Government firmly opposes the inappropriate use of zero-hour contracts.”

Do we not need more clarity around the position in Scotland? As well—

Thank you. I think that you have posed the question to Mr McKee.

—as devolving the powers, we need to make sure that—

Mr McKee has got the question, and he can now respond to it.

Ivan McKee

The cabinet secretary, Neil Gray, has been very clear that we oppose the inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts.

Using those levers to drive up wages and to increase standards is part of our vision for Scotland’s wellbeing economy. We want a high-wage, highly technological and high-innovation economy that is good not just for workers and tackling poverty in Scotland, but for Scotland’s economy and businesses. That is why Keith Brown’s motion is hugely important and why everybody in the chamber should support it.


Katy Clark (West Scotland) (Lab)

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests relating to my involvement in the trade union movement.

I congratulate Keith Brown on securing the debate and welcome the opportunity to discuss the devolution of employment law powers. It might be that Keith Brown wishes to devolve employment law as a matter of principle. Whether devolution of employment law is likely to lead to stronger rights for workers will be, for many, a strategic issue. We know that many of the employment protections that were created in the UK, such as equal pay protections, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 and discrimination law, were derived from European legislation, the social chapter and our membership of the European Union, which embedded and entrenched those rights in domestic law. I therefore welcome the mention in Keith Brown’s motion of how we “entrench and build on” rights in a Scottish context.

Daniel Johnson and Michael Marra spoke about Labour’s new deal for working people and the transformational potential that it has to strengthen rights at work and to make work pay.

As Michael Marra said, a UK Labour Government has committed to repealing the anti-trade union and anti-worker legislation, introducing legislation to ban zero-hours contracts, outlawing fire and rehire, strengthening sick pay and parental leave rights, creating unfair dismissal rights from day 1 of employment, and introducing a living wage as the national minimum wage within the first 100 days of government. All members who are in the chamber would agree that that would represent a fundamental shift in power to working people and positively impact on the lives of millions of people across the UK.

Scottish Labour has supported the devolution of employment rights and a UK-wide floor that cannot be removed. We support the UK new deal for working people and recognise that it is unlikely that the current UK Tory Government will devolve any aspect of employment law. Donald Cameron’s speech confirmed that.

There is a very important debate to be had about the devolution of employment law and what rights could make a difference. A discussion is already being had about sectoral collective bargaining in relation to the creation of the national care service, and that discussion could be extended to other services and sectors.

Keith Brown rightly pointed to the pardon for miners as a good example of how the Parliament can make a difference. I understand that, with effect from 1 July, the cabinet secretary made it a requirement that all organisations that seek public sector grants pay the living wage, and I believe that that is already having an impact. The Parliament needs to be kept updated on the impact of such measures.

We have to recognise that, despite the fact that the Scottish Government, in effect, banned zero-hours contracts five years ago, it was recently brought to light that zero-hours contracts are operating in the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. I suspect that no politician was aware of that, but it shows that Parliament has a role in vigilance.

We know that employment law and equality law are highly technical. In some ways, I regret the political knockabout that is involved in this debate because we need to have a very important discussion in all the political parties. This is a debate about the devolution of employment law, not about independence. We need to find ways to get the strongest possible employment protections for workers in Scotland and, ideally, across the UK, and that we find mechanisms to embed those so that they cannot be taken away.


Marie McNair (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a member of the Unison trade union.

I congratulate Keith Brown on securing the debate and acknowledge his long-standing commitment to workers’ rights and fair employment policy.

The devolution of employment law would give the Scottish Parliament the ability to protect workers’ rights, increase the living wage, end statutory living wage age discrimination, give us the powers to act on companies that use fire-and-rehire policies, tackle the gender pay gap, support parental leave and better trade union recognition policies, and much more.

The Tories’ anti-trade union policies, which were never repealed by the Labour Party, have undermined workers’ rights and allowed for an employment landscape in which the needs of workers can be placed last. The Trade Union Act 2016 and Brexit legislation show that the Tories care only about continuing in the same direction. Scotland needs a different path, and that will be helped by the full devolution of employment law.

The Labour Party arrogantly claims to be the party of trade unions, but it turns up here showing that it does not care about the opinions of trade unions that are clear that they want employment law to be devolved. Roz Foyer of the STUC is clear that devolution gives

“the chance to draw a line in the sand and ensure no worker in Scotland could ever be subject to any pernicious attack again from a Tory government hell-bent on undermining working people.”

However, despite the views of all trade unions, the TUC and the Labour Party, it has dropped the ball in another screeching U-turn in policy. The Campaign for Socialism, which some of the lapsed Corbynistas purport to be members of, said:

“This move would put the SPLP at odds with the STUC, TUC and Scottish Labour members ... MSPs must pick a side & abide by their manifesto commitment.”

We can see what side they have picked. Effectively, their memberships have lapsed.

Instead, we are expected to trust Westminster Labour to deliver, even though its record on keeping promises is shoddy. The party that now backs Brexit and the rape clause cannot be trusted on workers’ rights. Professor Keith Ewing of King’s College London has pointed out that the recent omission by Sir Keir Starmer to commit to a “single status of ‘worker’”

“would render completely pointless the commitments relating to zero-hours contracts, hire and rehire, and flexible working arrangements.”

On fire and rehire, Labour has questionable principles. When it comes to its own staff, The Independent alleged that Labour used fire and rehire, with one senior MP saying:

“To learn that our party are now using what can only be described as ‘fire and rehire tactics’ appals me. It’s everything we as a party should be aggressively opposing. Sacking individuals and hiring others with worse wages, terms and conditions are the actions of the worst of the very worst employers.”

When asked to rebut that, a Labour Party spokesman said:

“We don’t comment on staffing.”

We also know about the Labour Party’s shameful record on equal pay, so we will not trust Labour on workers’ rights. Instead, I stand with the trade unions and call for the full devolution of employment law to give this Parliament the means to provide fair work and decent pay and conditions.

Will Marie McNair give way?

Ms McNair should be concluding very soon, Mr Marra.

Marie McNair

Let us have the ambition to go further to support workers, with independence. Powers over health and safety law will mean that we can do much more to keep our workplaces safe. Power over social security policies will mean that we can do much more to support low-paid workers.

Crumbs from Westminster’s table are not for us. They are not enough for Scottish workers. A better path is an independent Scotland.


Mercedes Villalba (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests: I am a proud trade unionist.

I requested to speak in the debate for three reasons: first, I support the devolution of employment law to Scotland; secondly, the Scottish Trades Union Congress supports the devolution of employment law to Scotland; and thirdly, my party—the Scottish Labour Party—supports the devolution of employment law to Scotland.

Unlike Keith Brown and his party, I do not believe in Scottish exceptionalism; I believe in the common endeavour of the people, who, united in purpose, can remake our economic system to work in favour of us all. My support for the devolution of employment law stems from my principles of democratic socialism: that power should be held as close as possible to the people that it serves, be used in the interests of those people and be accountable to those people. I therefore welcome, as did Keith Brown, the Trades Union Congress’s backing of a motion calling for the devolution of employment law to Scotland, as well as the repeal of all current anti-trade union legislation.

The call comes from workers themselves, but that is not all that workers call for. That is why the next Labour Government has committed to a new deal for workers: no more zero-hours contracts; no more fire and rehire; employment rights from day 1; union rights to access the workplace; new fair pay agreements; and the repeal of the attack on the right to strike. Where is the SNP’s new deal for workers? What does the SNP offer workers other than zero-hour contracts?

Keith Brown will not be surprised to hear that the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress has called Labour’s new deal for working people the

“biggest expansion of workers’ rights in a generation”.

That is not all. He also said:

“That will be the choice at the next election. We want that first one hundred days Employment Bill through in one piece, onto the statute books and into the workplaces. And that’s why when the time comes I will tell anyone who asks: vote for working people, vote for change, vote for the party we named for our movement—vote Labour.”

I now call on the minister, Richard Lochhead, to respond to the debate.


The Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade (Richard Lochhead)

I am grateful to Keith Brown for proposing the debate and bringing this important matter before Parliament. There have been many heartfelt contributions from across most of the chamber and many speakers have participated, which I think shows the importance that members attach to workers’ rights in Scotland and the debate on who exercises responsibility for legislation in relation to those rights—the UK Government or the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government’s vision is for a fairer, more sustainable and growing economy, but it is also for a country that offers a decent future for all workers, their families and communities, underpinned by strong labour markets. For workers, that means better job quality, better pay, economic security, a better work-life balance, an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect.

As we have been debating, employment rights and duties are reserved to the UK Parliament under the Scotland Act 1998. The Scottish Parliament has no say over the minimum wage for workers in Scotland, their rights and protections or the conduct of industrial relations. This Parliament cannot legislate to shape a labour market that meets the interests of workers and employers alike to respond to the current and future needs of our economy. That is despite the enduring support of the STUC, as mentioned by many members, and the support of others, particularly during the formative years of the campaign for a Scottish Parliament, and including in the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

Nevertheless, through fair work, the Scottish Government is doing what it can within devolved competence to drive forward change. As a result of the action that we have taken, there are proportionally five times as many accredited real-living wage employers in Scotland as there are in the rest of the UK, and 91 per cent of workers in Scotland earn at least the real living wage. That is to give just a couple of examples of what we are doing in response to the challenges from members on the Labour benches, who do not seem to be aware of the progress that the Parliament has made. We also have the fair work first criteria, which have been applied to more than £4 billion in public funding since 2019.

Monica Lennon

As an example, what can the Scottish Government do to hear the cries of the workers at City of Glasgow College, who are emailing MSPs tonight to tell us about cuts to teaching time, increasing workloads, ending of fixed-term contracts, targeted voluntary severance and compulsory redundancies? Is that fair work?

Richard Lochhead

To deliver good workers’ rights in this country, we need employment law to be devolved. To escape some of the really tough times that the country is experiencing, we also need economic levers to be devolved to this Parliament so that we can create a prosperous Scotland and address some of the fundamental issues that are affecting our society. We do not have the powers to address those properly, but we would if the Scottish Parliament was independent or—as is the subject of today’s debate—had more powers devolved to us through devolution.

Our distinct approach, unlike that of the UK Government, is based on partnership working, as demonstrated through the establishment of the Fair Work Convention and our endorsement of the fair work framework. Trade unions are key to that partnership, and a progressive approach to industrial relations is at the heart of a fair and successful economy.

Keith Brown spoke about the history of strikes in Clackmannanshire. Scotland has, of course, played a prominent international role in the evolution of the trade union movement and in promoting and defending workers’ rights. In 1787, the Calton weavers fought for better wages and conditions in Scotland’s first major industrial dispute—that was 50 years before the Tolpuddle martyrs in England were sentenced to transportation for forming a union. More recently, as Keith Brown mentioned, the upper Clyde shipbuilders, led by Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie, captured the attention and imagination of people around the world.

However, recent UK Government labour market policies have pushed in the opposite direction, eroding rights and protections and undermining progressive industrial relations. Perhaps the greatest immediate threat to our hard-won employment rights is the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023, which allows the UK Government to rewrite the employment protections that we gained as members of the European Union.

Katy Clark

When I spoke, I referred to the requirement for all organisations that are seeking public sector grants to pay the living wage, and I strongly support that the Scottish Government took that step. Is it looking at what further measures can be used through procurement and the award of grants to ensure that other ethical practices are adhered to, including trade union membership?

Richard Lochhead

We are always looking to advance the fair work agenda. That is why we work closely with the Fair Work Convention and MSPs to ensure that we can identify next steps to help workers in this country.

I could list a lot of the issues that we think are at risk from the REUL act at Westminster. We have had many benefits through the European Union, from the maximum working week and the right to rest breaks, to paid annual leave, protection during pregnancy and for new parents, protections for agency, fixed-term and part-time workers, and so on. The uncertainty from Westminster is open ended for workers and for employers.

As well as putting rights and protections at risk, the UK Government is set on undermining trade unions. The Trade Union Act 2016 was the first step. Other members have mentioned the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022, which made it permissible for employment agencies to supply temporary workers to employers facing industrial action. There is also the infamous Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, under which regulations will set levels of service to be maintained during strikes. That is directly aimed at taking the teeth out of industrial action and circumventing dialogue.

I hope that we all believe that strike busting is no substitute for partnership and negotiation with workers and their representatives. Given what we have seen, the Scottish Government could, with full control over employment law, make far better choices on the labour market. That is why the STUC, the TUC, the Scottish Government and many people in Scotland believe in the devolution of employment law to the Scottish Parliament.

I will take a final intervention.

Michael Marra

I thank the minister for giving way. As a Government minister, I know that he would want to ensure that the STUC is quoted fully. Does he recognise the words of Roz Foyer, who said:

“A guaranteed minimum floor of workers’ rights across the UK is a prudent first step”?

Richard Lochhead

I welcome the support from the TUC, the STUC and the people of Scotland for the devolution of employment law to this Parliament.

Many people listening to members on the Labour benches today will be confused. On the one hand, the Labour spokespeople have been saying that the election of a UK Labour Government will solve everything, echoing the spokespeople for the UK Labour Party, who say that we do not need devolution because it will all be sorted out at UK level. On the other hand, today, Scottish Labour was arguing that we need devolution for Scotland—[Interruption.]

The Labour Party cannot have it both ways; we need to know that the issue is a priority for any incoming Labour Government—it was Labour policy until today.

Will the member take an intervention?

Mr Johnson, I do not think the minister has time to take an intervention.

Richard Lochhead

In “A Stronger Economy with Independence”, which was published in October last year, the Scottish Government proposed specific measures, such as establishing a fair national minimum wage, stronger access to flexible working, tackling precarious work, and legislating to ban fire and rehire. However, the big prize will be that there will also be better partnership working and stronger institutions. There are many benefits.

I agree with Ivan McKee and others who say that we should not go at the UK’s pace. We should set the pace, get on with it and get the powers devolved to this Parliament as soon as possible. We urge the Labour Party to give that commitment to the people of Scotland—to stop prevaricating and stick to its promise to devolve employment law to the Scottish Parliament.

Meeting closed at 18:29.