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Party unveils blueprint

Labour makes pledge to tackle productivity

Kezia Dugdale
Kezia Dugdale: visited Leonardo’s R&D facility in Edinburgh (photo by Terry Murden)

Scottish Labour today unveiled plans to improve productivity by investing in the economy.

It also said it would cut the working hours of public sector workers and abolish zero hours contracts.

Unveiling she the party called a strategy to put Scotland “at the cutting edge of the fourth industrial revolution” it said it would make Scotland one of the most productive nations in the western world, which could grow Gross Domestic Product by almost £45 billion.

Labour said the UK and Scottish governments should work with business to consider limiting the working-week to 48 hours – benefiting 250,000 workers in Scotland, in particular NHS staff.

The document states: “Our challenge is to ensure the lives of working people are improved and they gain more not less control over their time and incomes.”

Labour supports a real living wage of £10-an-hour and a ban on zero hour contracts which will drive productivity.

It said the SNP has been too distracted by its obsession with the constitution and the Tories are too busy fighting each other over Brexit leaving Scotland’s economy struggling.

Speaking at today’s unveiling at the Leonardo defence R&D facility in Edinburgh, economy spokesman Jackie Baillie insisted that the Scottish strategy could be implemented with or without a Labour government in Westminster.

She noted that the Leonardo plant at Crewe Toll accounted for 20% of all R&D activity in Scotland.

“We need to invest in more R&D,” she said.

Jackie Baillie: Insists plans not reliant on a Labour government in Westminster (photo by Terry Murden)

Scottish Labour’s industrial strategy includes:

•             Investment in education to address the skills shortages particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and coding so our young people have the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.

•             A dedicated Cities Minister to drive development in our cities and city regions, alongside a new UK regional policy to replace EU regional policy post-Brexit.

•             A commitment to full employment with a focus on the industries and jobs of the future – including decommissioning and renewables, alongside the FinTech [Financial Technology] sector. 

•             Public procurement which doesn’t reward companies and organisations that engage in blacklisting, operate zero-hours contracts, pay below Living Wage levels and other unfair employment practices.

•             A real living wage of £10-an-hour and a ban on zero hour contracts.

•             A strengthened Scottish Investment Bank under a UK Labour Government with £20 billion of lending power.

•             An enhanced Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service to drive productive capacity and productivity alongside increased workforce and trade union engagement.

•             Consulting business to end the UK opt-out of the Working Time Directive as part of a managed reduction of working time to curb excessive hours, improve health and safety and boost productivity. 

•             A dedicated Minister for Innovation to give this key area a voice at the heart of government. 

•             A possible introduction of a right for workers to buy a company when it is up for sale and threatened with closure. 

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Decline and deindustrialisation is not inevitable. We need to inspire a new generation of world-leading scientists and innovators to give our country the skills we all need to succeed.

“The SNP Government already has the powers to set Scotland on a different course to ensure we are at the cutting edge of the fourth industrial revolution.

“We need a Scottish Government with a plan for jobs and economic development, instead of one which sits back and leaves it entirely to the market. It is time for real change.”

Ms Baillie added: “Too many people experience long working hours, job monotony, and stress. 

“The EU Working Time Directive, a health and safety measure aimed at limiting the length of the working week to 48 hours, is subject to a UK opt-out.

“Following Brexit, a UK or Scottish Government could consider ending current opt-outs which fail to deliver on our ambition for an inclusive economy. This would potentially benefit thousands of workers across the country, in particular under-pressure NHS staff. We want to start a dialogue with business about the opportunities this would bring.”

Shadow economy Mmnister Richard Leonard said: “The fast rate of technological change means that businesses which once took two years to get from idea to market can now take two weeks.

“The impact of digital technological developments is being felt in long-established sectors of industry as well as newer emergent ones.

“Scottish Labour is committed to full employment and we believe that this should be a guiding principle for the Scottish Government and in turn its agencies. So at the very least we want to halt the decline of manufacturing industry and plan for a job-rich reindustrialisation of the Scottish economy.”

He said there was a greater need to boost productivity and removing the burden of excessive hours would help to achieve that goal.

He added that there was a need for a “step change” in the way the Scottish Investment Bank operates,.

“The current government is too reactive; there is too much crisis management. We need a government of active management.”

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