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Bill consent could be withheld

Published: 10 Nov 2015 16:49

Scottish Parliament debates Westminster’s Trade Union Bill.

The Scottish Government is to bring forward a Legislative Consent Memorandum on the Trade Union Bill.

Speaking in a Scottish Parliamentary debate on the draft Westminster legislation, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham told the chamber that the memorandum would give the Scottish Parliament the chance to fully consider whether it would give consent to the application of the Bill's provisions in Scotland.

Key concerns include:

  • Scottish Ministers are responsible for making decisions around requirements on public employers rather than the UK government
  • Public authorities in Scotland are largely devolved and the Bill would impact their employment contracts and good industrial relations
  • The Bill could potentially breach the European Convention on Human Rights
  • The Bill impacts upon the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Act 1949, a devolved area of responsibility.

The Trade Union Bill also faces its third reading in the House of Commons today.

Ms Cunningham said:

"There is no part of the Trade Union Bill that we think is a good idea. It's bad for workers, bad for business and bad for Scotland. For that reason I have asked the UK Government to exclude Scotland from the Bill in its entirety.

"However, as they appear unwilling to do so, I am now making it clear that they should seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament before attempting to impose this ill-thought through piece of legislation in Scotland.

"I know that Westminster processes continue and the stage 3 reading is today in the House of Commons. While I await its outome, a Legislative Consent Memorandum is being drafted, so the Scottish Parliament can fully consider whether it consents to the application of the Bill's provisions in Scotland.

"I have a number of concerns around the Bill and its application in Scotland. I believe that Scottish Ministers are responsible for making decisions around requirements on public employers, such as local authorities and health bodies in Scotland. These bodies are largely devolved and the Bill could seriously impact on their employment contracts and good industrial relations.

"Furthermore, the Bill could potentially breach the European Convention on Human Rights, a point made by both STUC and the Law Society.

"All of these issues may give grounds for the consent of the Scottish Parliament to be sought, but we must bear in mind that this is uncharted territory. There has not previously been an occasion where the UK and Scottish Governments could not reach prior agreement on issues of legislative consent. Sadly this is indicative of the lack of dialogue from the UK Government before the Bill's introduction.

"This Bill is an aggressive, regressive and unwarranted ideological attack on the rights of workers in Scotland and I again call on the UK government to reconsider its merits."