Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has hit out at the Scottish Government over its fair work record during a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

Colin, who is Scottish Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Rural Affairs, used his speech in the debating chamber to highlight a number of issues, including the living wage.

Speaking in parliament Colin Smyth said: “The reality is that the SNP’s record on fair work is, sadly, all too often not as progressive as it is reluctant.

“That has been the case for years. Positive steps are welcome but take too long and, more often than not, do not go far enough. We welcome the SNP coming round to the Labour movement’s way of thinking when it comes to payment of the living wage, including in the context of the award of more than £13 billion of public money every year for procuring goods and services, but it is a pity that that did not come sooner.

“When I was a councillor in Dumfries and Galloway Council, before I was elected to this Parliament, I recall being worried, even then, that we would face a recruitment crisis in social care because cuts to council budgets were driving an agenda of outsourcing care for no other reason than that it was cheaper to commission private and third sector care firms than to use council staff.

“I proposed that the council should seek a commitment from firms to pay the living wage as part of any council care commissioning, and that we should work in partnership with firms to pay a fair price for fair pay.

“My proposal was booted out by the Tory-SNP coalition that ran the council for most of the decade that I was a councillor. SNP councillors waved letters from SNP ministers that said that they could not support fair pay because it was illegal.

“It took the SNP nearly a decade to U-turn on a mechanism for paying the living wage to adult care workers—by updating its legal advice, as the minister described it.”

Colin continued: “In last year’s budget, the SNP made no provision for an increase in social care pay.

“We need wholesale reform of social care, which replaces competitive tendering with genuine collaboration.

“Reform needs to start with a commitment to tackle poverty pay by adopting the GMB union’s call for a minimum £15 an hour in social care.

“We currently spend hundreds of millions of pounds on delayed discharge, keeping people in hospital because poor wages mean that we cannot attract social care staff to deliver the care packages that would enable people to leave hospital. We need to stop believing that paying poor wages is good for the economy and that low pay does not come with costs.”

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