South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said the SNP’s budget has failed to deliver a fair deal for care workers.
Scottish Labour had offered to vote for the budget if the government offered a pay rise for social care workers, starting at £12-an-hour and rising to £15-an-hour – benefitting around 200,000 Scots.
But the SNP declined to recognise the contribution made by all key workers during the pandemic.
Speaking during the budget debate , Colin Smyth told the Scottish Parliament “We needed a budget that would start to fix the foundations of the economy, protect our NHS, tackle Scotland’s plague of inequality and reward our key workers. Instead, sadly, we have a budget that has, largely, just papered over the cracks.
“I know that Covid did not create the inequalities in our society, the weaknesses in our economy or the utter neglect of our social care system, but it has cruelly exposed them.
“More than ever, we needed a bold and ambitious budget to take Scotland forward, but we have instead a budget that barely brings us back to where we were before the coronavirus.
“That is the case not least when it comes to a group of workers who have been so badly let down during the pandemic—Scotland’s social care staff.
“They have been let down by a lack of personal protective equipment, a lack of testing and a lack of proper guidance.
“That meant that Covid-positive patients were transferred into our care homes, but those workers looked after our loved ones as if they were their own—often caring for them in their final moments as Covid took its terrible toll in our care homes. They did so in return for wages that, frankly, we should be ashamed of. We were all quick to clap for those care workers during the first lockdown, but it is not our praise that they need; it is an increase in their wages.
“That is why Labour did not make unreasonable demands during the budget process. We gave our backing to the calls by the GMB Union for £15 per hour for care staff. We did not demand that it happen overnight, but instead asked for a first step of £12 per hour in this budget. That would be entirely affordable with just a fraction of the extra funds that the Government has received since it published its draft budget.
“Although we would like to have seen much more being improved in the budget, we made it clear that we would back it if the Government agreed to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work for our social carers. However, the Government has failed to provide that.”
Colin Smyth added: “The budget was a chance for the Parliament to come together to unite and stand with our carers. It was a test of how serious we are about genuinely building back better. However, when it comes to social care, Parliament has failed the test.
“However, Scotland’s social care workers can rest assured of one thing: Labour is on their side and will continue to stand with them until we get the better pay deal that they deserve.”