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Calls come as unemployment rises

FM demands more powers over pay and workers’ rights

Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for additional powers over the minimum wage, trade union laws and national insurance in a twin challenge to her opponents.

She has asked Prime Minister David Cameron to provide the extra control over the economy. She has also added pressure on Labour by reaffirming an agreement with the Scottish Trade Union Congress to fight for these and other measures.

Her pledge to stand up for workers’ rights over employment law, equalities legislation and social security sees the SNP further consolidating support among that section of the population that would normally be drawn to Labour. This was considered a key factor in Labour losing the vote in Scotland last week.

In a statement, the Government said: “The First Minister and the STUC share serious concerns over the impact on the people of Scotland of the UK Government commitment to continued austerity, the additional £12 billion of cuts to social security spending and further erosion of trade union and employment rights.

“The First Minister and the STUC share the view that as a priority the UK government should agree to the full devolution of powers over the minimum wage, trade union and employment law, health and safety law and equalities legislation and further devolution of powers over social security.

“The Scottish Government is committed to working with the STUC and the full range of stakeholders on proposals for extending devolution.”

However, the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Scottish government and STUC coincided with new figures showing unemployment in Scotland rising by 19,000 while it fell across the UK. The jobless figure in Scotland is now 6% against 5.5% for the UK. New figures from the Bank of England also saw it cut its UK growth forecast from 2.9% to 2.4% for this year.

Andy Willox, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scottish policy convenor, said:  “These lukewarm national figures also mask a story of uneven recovery. While the future looks bright in some localities, others aren’t so fortunate. We need new strategies to turn around these communities, and their local enterprises need to be at the centre of these plans.”

Liz Cameron chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the latest figures showed it was time for greater cooperation between Scotland and Westminster.

“Businesses in Scotland will need a clear understanding of the future decision making landscape in Scotland.  Co-operation between the Scottish and UK Governments has never been more important and we must be clear that they are working together to support our businesses to grow, internationalise, win contracts and to create more jobs,” she said.

The First Minister said she remained committed to achieving a wealthier but more equal society.

She said: “A fair society supports a strong economy and we are focused on delivering this by growing our economy, protecting public services, tackling inequality and empowering our communities.

“I have always stated that I am committed to creating a wealthier and more equal society and this is a vision shared by the STUC, as the signing of this MoU shows.

“The Scottish Government and the STUC share very real concerns about the impact further austerity could have in Scotland, combined with welfare cuts and the potential erosion of employment rights.

“We know further spending cuts will only further hit our most vulnerable communities.

“This Scottish Government is focused on addressing the unacceptable levels of inequality that people are experiencing which in turn will deliver strong economic growth.

“We will work with the STUC to make sure Scotland’s opposition to austerity is heard and our desire for a fairer deal for Scotland is delivered.”

General Secretary of the STUC, Grahame Smith said: “The STUC strongly believes that programme of the new UK Government will inevitably result in a weaker economy and a significant increase in inequality.

“Further swingeing cuts in departmental and social security spending threaten both the economic recovery and the living standards of society’s most vulnerable people. The attack on employment and trade union rights will further undermine workplace democracy and leave Scottish workers as some of the weakest legal protections in the developed world.

“The STUC will work with the Scottish Government and other civic organisations to oppose this unnecessary and damaging new dose of austerity and to instead help build a fairer and more equal Scotland.”

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