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Ministers accused of PR stunt

SNP ‘slashing Business Pledge budget by half’

Kezia Dugdale

Kezia Dugdale: ‘This SNP scheme cannot just be a publicity stunt’ (photo by Terry Murden)

The SNP is set to slash the budget for its flagship ‘Business Pledge’ almost in half this year, it has been claimed.

Ministers have announced a review of the scheme, but Scottish Labour says the funding cut will hinder attempts to drive up signatories to the initiative which urges companies to make a number of commitments such as paying the living wage.

Labour says there is also no target to increase the number of the government’s own suppliers that have signed the pledge.

The scheme, which was launched by Nicola Sturgeon in 2015, requires private sector firms to pay the living wage, avoid using exploitative zero hours contracts and make progress on diversity and gender balance.

Firms that sign up to the pledge are also required to commit to prompt payment and play an active role in the community, with the aim of boosting productivity and competitiveness for Scotland’s economy.

Parliamentary Questions show that overall costs for 2017-18 are £24,115, but this is set to fall to just £13,000 in 2018-19.

Scottish Labour says just 15% of Scottish Government suppliers are signatories of the pledge.

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, who sits on Holyrood’s economy committee, said: “Labour has repeatedly warned that this SNP scheme cannot just be a publicity stunt.

“While the government’s announcement of a review is welcome, these figures suggest the government is not committed to significantly driving up the number of signatories.

“The huge cut in spending shows that the SNP is still not serious about encouraging companies to live up to the laudable aims of the pledge.

“The fact that there is no target to increase take-up among the government’s own suppliers demonstrates a failure to lead by example.

“We should be using the buying power of the government as we grow our economy to ensure workers are paid a fair wage and are not exploited by employers.

“While the Tories and SNP stand back and allow insecure work to spread, Labour would act to guarantee good jobs and strong businesses.”

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