Scottish Government 'at war' with Westminster over Tory anti-strike bid

The Scottish Government has gone to war with Westminster over its planned anti-strike laws. And they’re being urged by a trade union chief to challenge the proposed legislation from the UK Government in court.

The Tory bill aims to bring in a minimum level of service for fire and ambulance workers for when they are on strike – a plan which critics said will force workers to cross picket lines, and is intended to weaken trade unions. Unions insist there are already minimum service levels in place for when they are on strike, providing life and limb cover.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “We need to see the Scottish Government, in so far as possible, challenge this legislation, whether that be through the Parliament or, if need be, through the courts. Workers in Scotland who are employed by Scottish Government bodies will now be placed in the grotesque position of having a UK Government Secretary of State selectively cherry picking who can and can’t take industrial action.

“It’s an obscene power grab that undermines devolution and removes power from the workplace and transfers it to Whitehall Now more than ever, we need a Scottish Government on the side of workers and prepared to stand by us as we see our rights being removed. Our right to strike is sacrosanct.”

In a letter to the STUC, seen by the Sunday Mail, Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed the Scottish Government would not implement the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) law if ministers are given the choice.

John Swinney

© Getty Images
John Swinney

He wrote: “It is my view that this Bill should not pass, but if the UK Government is intent on going forward with it, then they should not apply it to Scotland and if they insist that it apply to Scotland, they should give the power to Scottish ministers to decide whether or not to implement it in the sectors affected.For the avoidance of doubt, should this power rest with Scottish ministers, we would not exercise it.”

A consultation on it, launched last week, states it would apply in Scotland, England and Wales. Unison Scotland regional secretary Tracey Dalling, who represents ambulance and fire service workers, said: “The fact that the UK government wants to legislate for minimum service levels on strike days but refuses to implement minimum safe staffing levels tells you this has nothing to do with serving the public and everything to do with attacking workers. We welcome that the Scottish Government are saying they are not going to implement this law, as far as possible.”

The Fire Brigades Union welcomed Swinney’s promise not to enforce the anti-strike law, and called for the Welsh government to do the same. The proposed strike legislation is the third major issue where Edinburgh and London have gone head to head over devolved and constitutional issues.

Last year, a Scottish Government bid to hold a second independence referendum was blocked by the Supreme Court and last month a Holyrood majority vote to implement new laws on gender recognition was stopped by Westminster.

Employment and Fair Work Minister Richard Lochhead said the bill “ignores the devolution settlement”, adding : “The Scottish Government is urgently considering whether the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required and how ministers can prevent this Bill’s implementation in Scotland. Ministers strongly oppose any Bill that undermines legitimate trade union activity and does not respect fair work principles.”

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