Gordon Macdonald on Policing – Supporting the SNP, not his constituents.

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Like many Scots, I am concerned about policing in Scotland. I know that problems always occur, but it does appear that Police Scotland has faced real challenges this year. I published a blog on the subject back in July and have updated it a few times – the most recent version can be found on the excellent Labour Hame.

When undertaking research for my blog, I found reports that suggest housebreaking doubled in Edinburgh in the first three months of 2015 and that Edinburgh (Balerno specifically) already topped the league for house break-ins.

Balerno is near where I work and part of the Holyrood constituency I live in, so I was concerned about this. When HMICS confirmed that Edinburgh had Scotland’s highest crime rate I contacted my MSP, the SNP’s Gordon Macdonald, to see what he was doing about the problem.

Whilst I wrote to him I fully expected he’d be defensive. After all, he had fully backed the way the SNP have reorganised policing. He’d backed cuts to the policing budget. He ignored warnings from Unison and Scottish Labour and backed the SNP accounting structure for policing which resulted in it being billed for an additional £32m in VAT.  Nonetheless, I wrote to him and an image of his reply is below.

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Let’s have a look at some of what he says…

Macdonald says: Since my election in 2011 I have been in regular contact with the Inspectors at Oxgangs (where SNP cuts meant a police station was closed) and Wester Hailes, the Chief Inspector at Corstorphine and I have met with the Edinburgh area commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams.

Saying he was in “regular contact” sounded a bit vague, so I wrote to Mr Macdonald on the 6th of November asking more about these meetings. Four weeks later, I am still waiting on a reply.

Macdonald says: The peak period for break-ins was February to April but thanks to Operation RAC, which was introduced specifically as an anti-burglary and car theft initiative, we saw the number of incidents drop in May and June.

Operation RAC is essentially the reestablishment of anti-burglary teams which were disbanded when the SNP setup Police Scotland.  They were re-established after both Ian Murray MP and Kezia Dugdale MSP made repeated calls for their return. Despite the success of Operation RAC, the burglary rate is still higher in Edinburgh than before the SNP formed Police Scotland. Indeed, HMICS are clear: “during 2014-15 reports of housebreaking increased by 20.8%”.

Macdonald says: The success of Operation RAC was “due to the dedicated housebreaking team’s success in locking up the main protaganists [sic]”.

I asked Mr Macdonald for more details of these arrests. After 4 weeks, I am still awaiting a response.

MacDonald says: You may be interested in noting that in 2006 a report to the Lothian and Borders Police Board highlighted a detection rate for house break-ins of 31.4% for Edinburgh and that the latest detection rate for the city in 2014/15 was 48%.

MacDonald claims the detection rates for house break-ins is falling, but HMICS say: “The detection rate for crimes in Edinburgh Division has decreased progressively from 41.7% in 2012-13 to 35.4% in 2014-15. The division has the lowest detection rates of all divisions in Scotland and is well below the Scottish average for 2014-15 of 50.4%.” detection

MacDonald says: In addition total recorded crimes in the Edinburgh area are down 29% from 2005/6 compared to 2014/15.

This is naughty. Across the western world crime is falling and the SNP can’t take credit for that. Let’s look at what the HMICS has to say about crime in Edinburgh: “A key aim of police reform is to protect and improve services and an indicator of success is reducing crime and disorder and improving detection rates. This has not been the case in Edinburgh Division with performance declining over the past three years. However, as illustrated by Chart 3, the longer term trends indicate that crimes per 10,000 of population are still below the five, 10 and 15 year averages.crimeThe plot above shows how different the situation in Edinburgh is compared to the rest of Scotland. I have to say that I’d thought it was the job of my MSP to raise this issue in Holyrood. I asked Mr MacDonald if he had done this. He chose not to answer me, so I checked his record. He last spoke in Holyrood about policing in April 2013(!). At that time he was arguing that the “recent establishment of the single police force and the single fire service is another obvious example of how sharing of services can deliver cost savings (AKA cuts) and other benefits”!

It is very clear that Mr MacDonald is both out of touch and ineffectual where policing is concerned.  It is important to note that Mr MacDonald’s willingness to mislead is not limited to me. In a recent newsletter from him there were a number of very misleading statements, including one on Policing in relation to the SNP’s 2014/15 budget where he claimed is was “Supporting 1000 additional police officers”. This is actually a policy from before the formation of Police Scotland. To maintain these officers when their budget is being cut Police Scotland must cut administrative posts and have police officers take on more paperwork. So whilst the SNP are boasting that they’ve appointed “1000 new officers”, they fail to mention that half these officers took the place of 972 sacked civilian workers. Unison’s George McIrvine: Police officers being paid around £35,000 a year are now doing the jobs previously performed by civilian specialists on £25,000.

There can only be one reason that Mr MacDonald is not a stronger voice for people living in his Edinburgh Pentlands constituency. That is that he is loyal to his party, not his constituents. If the SNP are to win the Holyrood 2016 election, people in Edinburgh Pentlands must ask themselves if they want an MSP that simply does whatever the government asks or one which actually represents their interests.  I know what I want.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pete Wishart has been talking rubbish again – this time it’s the NHS

Although he has been called a “gimp” by a schoolgirl, Pete Wishart is one of the SNP’s most experienced MPs. This week he took part in BBC Question Time and he made many points, but his views on the NHS in Scotland were particularly interesting:

Let’s look at that…

Pete says: The NHS in Scotland is devolved and there is “no way on earth” we’d ever go down any sort of privatisation route.

This is odd as during the referendum the SNP’s Alex Salmond warned Scots that only a Yes vote could save the NHS in Scotland from privatisation. I guess that threat has passed. Phew!

Pete says: Private sector involvement in providing buildings for our NHS give the tax payer a bad deal.

He is clearly referring to PFI/PPP procurement. The SNP don’t like to admit it but they are big fans of PFI. They know it is controversial, so they call it “Non-Profit Distribution” – don’t be fooled by the name, it is PFI.  In Edinburgh, the new Sick Kids Hospital and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service facility are being procured by the SNP using NPD/PFI. Indeed, just this week John Swinney announced a new batch of projects which will be procured via NPD/PFI.

Pete says: Private sector involvement in healthcare delivery has not increased under the SNP.

This is bonkers. We know that about £82 million was spent by the SNP Government on private health firms last year, compared with £75.9 million last year and £58m in 2006-7 when the SNP came to power. This increase comes after the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge to save Scotland from the “creeping privatisation” of the NHS south of the border.

This does not include the involvement of the private sector in social care. One business which has benefited from this is Balhousie Care Group, Scotland’s largest private residential care home provider. The Chairman and founder is Tony Banks, a millionaire who is a key player in the independence movement.

Pete Says: Sometimes private involvement in the NHS is “necessary”.

What he means is that it’s fine when the SNP do it.

 

Conclusion: Pete Wishart has been talking rubbish again.

 

Fact Checked – Gordon Macdonald MSP’s Newsletter.

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Gordon Macdonald is my MSP. He does not have much of a profile in my constituency (Edinburgh Pentlands), I have only ever seen him once since he was elected in 2011. On that occasion, a debate in my church, he boasted that he’d been fighting Labour for 40 years. Think about that, he didn’t say he’d been fighting the Tories or poverty. He didn’t say he’d been fighting for independence. He said he’d been fighting the last Labour Government when they were lifting 2 million people out of poverty, increasing the state pension and doubling NHS spending.

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Keep in mind that parts of Mr Macdonald’s constituency have the highest burglary rate in Scotland, but he has not raised a single question about Police Scotland’s performance in Holyrood. He has, however, been fighting Labour (who are not even in government).

All this made me think that he may not have been reselected as the SNP Holyrood candidate for 2016 as surely there must be others in SNP Pentlands to take forward the party’s disingenuous anti-austerity message. As if to reassure me, I had his tax payer funded “newsletter” delivered to me this week.

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The cover is virtually identical to his August newsletter and retells almost verbatim the tale of Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to the constituency it to talk about the February launch of the SNP’s Attainment Fund – a sticking plaster to cover the 4000 teachers lost and dropping standards under the SNP.

Somewhat unbelievably, the front page Macdonald’s newsletter also makes mention of some controversial planning applications in the constituency and reports local concerns. However, he fails to mention that these decisions were made by his SNP Government against the wishes of local residents and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Most of the rest of the tax payer funded newsletter lacks focus. For example, Bills are listed which have received Royal assent without any effort to explain how they benefit or impact on Scotland.

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Page 3 does, however, contain some details which are worth looking at…. although much of it has been cut and pasted from the Scottish Government website (Mr Macdonald has been too busy fighting Labour to give his own perspective).

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Free School Meals P1 – P3
Free school meals have been available to those on low/no income all of my life. I know this as I enjoyed them (really!) in the 70’s and 80’s. David Cameron’s 2010-15 government extended free school meals to all P1-P3 pupils – even the very richest. This meant that the SNP Government received Barnett consequential funding….  and they did nothing for months despite having pledged in 2007 and 2010 to role out free school meals to all. After some fierce criticism, they did eventually act.

Whilst extending free school meals to families who can more than afford them is not a bad thing, one has to wonder if the money could have been spent more wisely… particularly when we have families queuing up at food banks.

NHS Spending
Mr Macdonald claims the SNP have spent an additional “£127m for frontline healthcare in our NHS taking our total additional resource investment for 2015-16 to £383m”. Notice the focus on “resource” spending? This is because the NHS budget comprises capital and resource components – the SNP have been cutting the former to fund the latter. Sneaky!

Teacher Numbers
After cutting 4,000 teaching jobs and slashing council budgets in Scotland Mr Macdonald wants Scots to be thankful “a further £10m” has been found to maintain teacher numbers”.

Affordable Homes 
Like Mr Macdonald, I welcome a £390m investment in affordable homes… if they are truly affordable. But what about investment in social housing for those who can’t own their own home? The last Scottish Labour Government’s record on social housing was not great, but the SNP have failed to even meet that standard!

Free Childcare
Mr Macdonald trumpets extra spending on childcare (I thought that could only be achieved with independence?) in the same week that parents raised significant concerns about the SNP Government’s attitude towards childcare.

Council Tax Freeze
Mr Macdonald proudly supports this policy even though it makes inequality worse in Scotland and has been damaging to public services. If the freeze is “fully funded”, Mr Macdonald must explain where that money has come from and why it could not be used to reduce inequality in Scotland.

Supporting 1000 New Police Officers
Again, Mr Macdonald is proud of this flagship policy. To maintain the police numbers and balance the budget, Police Scotland must cut administrative posts and have police officers take on more paperwork. This is not new – even before Police Scotland was formed the SNP were boasting that they’d appointed “1000 new officers”, but failed to mention that half these officers took the place of 972 sacked civilian workers. Unison’s George McIrvine: Police officers being paid around £35,000 a year are now doing the jobs previously performed by civilian specialists on £25,000.

Protecting the Local Government Budget
Mr Macdonald needs to be honest. The City of Edinburgh’s budget has not been “protected” by the SNP. If he paid attention, rather than just fought Labour, he’d know that budget cuts mean that The City of Edinburgh Council is facing up to 2,000 job losses.

 

Conclusion
At best, Mr Macdonald’s newsletter is misleading. He omitted key facts and is clearly out of touch with what is happening in Edinburgh Pentlands. Perhaps it’s time that I had a MSP that put his/her constituency first and did not engage in tribal politics.

PS – What exactly is Mr Macdonald’s position on TTIP.  Scottish Labour oppose it wholly, Mr Macdonald’s has “concerns”.  See:

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Scottish Labour 2015 Conference Report.

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Introduction
This report provides an overview of my time at conference. I have provided a fair bit of detail for Day 1 in order to give a feel for how the event was structured. For Days 2 and 3 I have linked to blogs I drafted.

Conference Report
The conference itself is structured around the “Report of the Scottish Policy Forum” document, with resolutions proposed to strengthen the content. For example, the first session dealt with “Public Services and Wealth Creation”, with resolutions to give extra support to shop workers, fairer procurement and the buy-back of PPP/PFI/NPD debt.

During this debate two things were clear – there was some concern about the levels of abuse shop workers in Scotland are receiving and anger that the SNP’s unwillingness to support calls to give them more protection in law. Similarly, there was a feeling that the SNP were offering steel workers “warm words”, but had not supported the industry via their procurement strategy.  Indeed, it was noted that the SNP Government make no mention of the steel industry in their “Economic Strategy“.

Before and after the main sessions each day there are fringe events. On the way out of the venue at lunchtime on the first day I spotted Nigel Griffiths (my old MP) handing out “Labour Leave” leaflets for a fringe event he is promoting – perhaps a sign of future battles. I attended a fringe event hosted by the “Labour Movement for Europe“. The focus of this was the role Labour should play in the coming EU referendum. This was chaired by George Foulkes, with significant contributions from Catherine Stihler MEP and a Community representative.

After lunch we had a keynote address from Ian Murray MP, the core of this was his “story” and how he was able to move from one of the most deprived areas in Scotland and go on to start his own business . His conclusion was: “that is why we wake up every day, frustrated at our UK and Scottish Governments abdicating their responsibility to level the playing field – failing to make sure we really have equality of opportunity.”

Like many other speakers, Ian Murray referred to the Trade Union Bill. However, his anger was directed at the SNP and the Tories: “While Labour have been fighting for the rights of workers and unions across the United Kingdom what have the SNP been doing? They have gone through the Trade Union Bill, opting Scotland out. Just Scotland. How’s that for solidarity? Live in England? Tough. Live in Wales? Tough. Live in Northern Ireland? Tough. Conference, Let me be absolutely clear. The Labour Party will oppose the Trade Union Bill for every worker, everywhere.” Ian won the first standing ovation of the day.

Next came an address from Jeremy Corbyn. His speech focussed on Labour as an internationalist movement and its links with the human rights campaigning. He used this narrative to make the case for Labour being the only true left-wing alternative to the Conservatives – “Friends, if you want socialist change, if you want a left wing alternative, you have to vote for it. If you’re satisfied that nearly a million people in Scotland are in fuel poverty or that half of all housing in Scotland falls short of official quality standards, then Labour isn’t for you. But if you’re not content, if you won’t walk by on the other side, then vote for a party next May that is a democratic socialist party in both our words and our deeds. Vote Labour.”

On Friday evening I then attended a meeting to agree the wording of our CLP’s composite motion. This proved to be a little painful, but very worthwhile. The agreed wording is at the end of this report.

The main focus of Saturday was Kezia Dugdale’s speech and I have written elsewhere about its impact over the week or so of events which followed.

Sunday was “Members’ Day” and the delegates decided to debate Housing, TTIP, Trident renewal and the Trade Union Bill. I have already written about the mood at the conference during the TTIP and Trident debates.

My Opinion
The conference was energising and I am very glad that I attended. This may, at least in part, be due to the fact that I and many others were attending for the first time.  Nonetheless, I was quietly concerned about the lack of clarity prior to the event on what would be debated. Allowing delegates to select the topics for debate was overwhelmingly positive, but the debates have to be credible (the was 100% consensus on the Trade Union Bill debate) and open to all (only delegates could speak). Despite this, I think it was a very worthwhile event which gave Scottish Labour a chance to set the news agenda in Scotland.

Housing Motion
Conference believes that everyone deserves a warm, secure home where individuals, families and communities can thrive and that a decent standard of housing is crucial to the development and well-being of children, the health of the nation and an efficient workforce.

Conference recognises the acute shortage of affordable housing across Scotland; that it is currently estimated by Shelter Scotland that there are over 150,000 households on local authority housing waiting lists; that the primary tenure for households in Scotland is still owner occupation, however 13% of households now live in the private rented sector which has more than doubled in the last ten years and notes the increase in the cost of rents; that according to the Scottish Government’s latest figures by the end of March 2015 there were 10,488 households in temporary accommodation in Scotland and there were more than 35,000 homeless applications in 2013/14; overall house building levels in Scotland are currently well below their 2007 peak levels and social housing completions have fallen by 44% from 2010 to 2014. Conference understands that of Scotland’s housing stock over 1 in 10 households in Scotland are affected by dampness, condensation or both, 940,000 are in fuel poverty and roughly 75,000 households are overcrowded.

Conference believes that this points to the clear failure of the Scottish Government to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.

Conference calls on an incoming Scottish Labour Government to commit to backing Shelter Scotland’s for a radical programme to build more affordable and social rent homes, including co-operation as a model, council and third sector building; calls for a fair deal for private sector tenants through rent controls and adequate housing standards with enforcement powers.

Have we just witnessed Nicola Sturgeon’s worst week as First Minister?

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That was the week that was. 
It has been an interesting week or so in Scottish political life. Things have went so well for Labour that the SNP have been forced to play their #indyref2 card to distract their core support. Let’s look at what happened.

Friday (30th of October)
The Scottish Labour Party gathers in Perth for its conference and Kezia Dugdale has delivered on her pledge to return control of the conference to the party. The first session dealt with “Public Services and Wealth Creation” and included a resolution to buy-back PFI debt. To be clear, this debate was a sign that Labour had changed as it recognised both that Labour may have made a mistake with PFI financing and that the SNP were continuing this under NPD (their version of PFI).

Saturday (31st of October)
Kezia Dugdale gave the speech of a lifetime which set the news agenda for the whole week (and perhaps longer). Amongst other things, she committed Labour to protecting Scots from Tory Tax Credit cuts and laid out plans for closing the attainment gap.

Sunday (1st of November)
Kezia’s speech on Saturday was packed with progressive policies and was a clear challenge to anyone in Scotland who thinks Holyrood does not have the power to make Scotland fairer, or who talks left, but walks right.  The SNP responded not by attacking the speech, but by adopting a key labour policy which they had voted against last year – they said that firms bidding for public sector contracts will be expected to pay employees the living wage.

Later that morning in an interview where she was been held to account for cutting the grant for the poorest Scottish students, SNP minister Angela Constance was told she couldn’t restart an awkward television interview again — because it’s live! I am not sure if this is incompetence or complacency.

At the same time the Scottish Labour Party was debating Trident and voted to oppose its renewal. I watched as speaker after speaker was warmly applauded (and often cheered) even by those who did not agree with the arguments which were made.  This was not a conference of robots being dictated to by a leader which could not be questioned, but a gathering of comrades agreeing on how to reach a common goal – a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

Monday (2nd of November)
In the Daily Record, Kezia Dudgale confirms: “If George Osborne doesn’t abandon his plans, Scottish Labour will go into next year’s election with a pledge to restore tax credits for working class families in Scotland“.

On this day we also saw Iain Macwhirter, a journalist/author much respected by nationalists, comment on the Labour Tax Credit position:

He was quickly put in is place by one online commentator known as “Mr Roboto”:

Tuesday (3rd of November)
The Scotland Bill returns to Westminster having been amended considerably and it is now clear “The” Vow has been delivered and, as Gordon Brown said, “it’s time to stop talking about the new powers and start delivering them“.

On the same day there is a historic vote in Holyrood – the SNP vote with Labour to oppose Trident renewal. On the Labour benches only Jackie Ballie opposes the motion.

Wednesday (4th of November)
There was a “significant moment”  in Holyrood. Labour tabled a motion calling on the Scottish government to use the new tax and welfare powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to restore tax credits to Scots.  In a chamber with a fair number of empty SNP seats (image), Labour argued that Scots facing these Tory cuts deserved more than warm words from the SNP. This debate highlighted yet again the SNP is a party of constitutional grievance that is willing to milk any issue for votes. Jackie Ballie:

“The SNP have spent days telling us we wouldn’t have the power to top-up tax credits, yet Alex Neil now accepts that’s just not true. Yesterday Alex Neil issued a press release demanding tax credits be devolved, even though he conceded today that the power to top-up tax credits is already being devolved. Why can’t the SNP just embrace the new powers instead of always talking Scotland down? The tax credit debate exposed what really matters to the SNP government – constitutional grievance rather than helping working families in Scotland.”

Thursday (5th of November)
Kezia asked Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly during First Minister’s Questiosn if the SNP would protect Scots from the Tory Tax Credit cuts. Nicola Sturgeon’s response was warm words and vague assurances.

Friday (6th of November)
Graeme Pearson, a former senior police officer, publishes his review of policing in Scotland.  He found that many of the problems Police Scotland face are due to the SNP’s drive to centralise and the failure of ministers to put in place proper structures to hold the police service to account. Those decisions by SNP Ministers have led to increased pressure on our police officers.

His recommendation was to give officers more autonomy to answer questions raised by communities, as well as enabling better local oversight and improving the relationship between the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and local communities.

On the same day, the SNP’s position on Tax Credits was back in the news. Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Big Debate programme, John Nicolson (an SNP MP) was asked to “pledge now that the Scottish Government will mitigate in full the effect of tax credit cuts”. Mr Nicolson replied to say that “we can’t say that with any certainty”.

Saturday (7th of November)
The newspapers are now reporting on a story which was published in the Daily Record on Friday concerning the death of a man in the A&E unit of Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

An investigation is now underway into why he waited on a trolley for hours in the SNP’s flagship hospital. The death should not be blamed on the SNP, but the hospital is slowly becoming a microcosm of the wider problems the NHS faces in Scotland under the SNP.

Sunday (8th of November)
It’s been a dire week for the SNP and they need to divert attention away from the NHS, policing and welfare. Their only option is to play the referendum card and hope that it distracts their core support away from the other stories.

They therefore create a non-story about #indyref2 and hope their dutiful core support reacts like the mutts in Pixar’s “Up” when they are distracted by a squirrel – these dogs were well trained by their “good and smart” master. I think Scots are smarter.

Progressive policies and mature debate is why Scottiahs Labour is worth a fresh look.

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Last weekend in Perth, Scottish Labour demonstrated it is a party of the left which has democracy at its core. Furthermore, Kezia Dugdale MSP demonstrated that she is the party’s leader, not its dictator.

Whilst it is tempting to focus on the differences of opinion expressed in the many debates, it is important to note how those arguments were made and received. As a first time delegate to the conference, I was impressed by the atmosphere of respect and tolerance within which the debates were conducted.  There was no acrimony.

During the TTIP and Trident debates in particular, I watched as speaker after speaker was warmly applauded (and often cheered) even by those who did not agree with the arguments which were made.  This was not a conference of robots being dictated to by a leader which could not be questioned, but a gathering of comrades agreeing on how to reach a common goal – a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

During the Trident debate in particular, we heard fantastic speeches from the conference floor. MSPs, councillors, trade unionists, and ordinary delegates all offered differing views.  The key debating point was the impact of cancelling Trident on Scotland’s industrial capacity.

But whilst the delegates had to make a difficult decision, it is important to note that Kezia Dugdale did not try to influence the debate – she remained inscrutable throughout. Her leadership and the nature of the debate made us stronger, not weaker.

The Trident motion does not mean that Scottish Labour can demand Trident is scrapped, or that UK Labour must change its policy on the nuclear deterrent. It does, however, mean that the party can speak with authority in the broader debate surrounding Trident renewal.

The same is true of the many other motions that were proposed by members and often passed unanimously – meeting Shelter’s social housing targets, protecting public services from TTIP, defending trade union rights, buying back PFI debt and many others . Progressive policies and mature debate from a party which is worth a fresh look.

A very welcome u-turn from the SNP on the living wage.

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2014
At the second reading of the Procurement Reform Bill in May 2014, SNP members blocked a Labour amendment to deliver the Living Wage for workers employed by private companies on public contracts. Let’s be clear, this Labour amendment would have meant that firms bidding for public sector contracts would have been expected to pay employees the living wage.

At the time Kezia Dugdale MSP said: “The introduction of this measure would not only have boosted earnings for minimum wage workers by over £2000 a year, it would have shown a real commitment to equality.

James Kelly MSP added that the amendment would have given: “a rise to many of £2,600 a year. 64% of these people are women, so this is an opportunity not only to help women but an opportunity to tackle low pay in public contracts.

So why didn’t the SNP agree to this Labour amendment which would have cut inequality and sent a strong message to employers right across Scotland? Rather than taking responsibility for their own decision, they blamed the EU. Alex Salmond, the then First Minister, said: “EU law prevents both us and local authorities from making the living wage a requirement in public sector contracts.

Nicola Sturgeon also blamed the EU: “I want to ensure we abide by the [EU] law and that we don’t put our public bodies at that risk of being taken to court.

The awkward thing for the SNP was that the EU was listening and made it clear that EU law was “not preventing it”. They did say that employers could contest Holyrood on the issue, but “what firm worth their salt would want to run up a massive bill going to court to demand the right to pay workers less?”.

2015
Yesterday in Perth at around 2pm Kezia Dugdale gave the speech of a lifetime.  Its focus was how Scottish Labour would make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous country. It was packed with progressive policies and is a clear challenge to anyone in Scotland who thinks Holyrood does not have the power to make Scotland fairer, or who talks left, but walks right.

At midnight yesterday the SNP responded. They did not respond by attacking the speech, but by adopting a key labour policy which they had voted against last year. You guessed it, they said that firms bidding for public sector contracts will be expected to pay employees the living wage.

So well over a year after they blocked Labour’s amendment and blamed the EU, they have backtracked and decided that workers in Scotland delivering public sector contracts do deserve a fair wage after all. What took them so long?