Anas Sarwar’s Labour revealed to be not as business-friendly as they claim – Murdo Fraser
Humza Yousaf has announced that he wants to reset his SNP-Green government’s relationship with business, recognising that this severely broke down under his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon. A New Deal for Business has been announced, with increased dialogue – or talking with no action – promised. Not to be outdone, his old school chum Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour party has tried to project energy in reaching out to leading figures in the business community across the country, and appearing regularly at economy-related events.
In the Scottish Conservatives, we have always had excellent relations with Scottish business, and back in the summer launched our detailed economic strategy paper – “Grasping the Thistle” which continues to set the agenda in discussions at Holyrood and elsewhere as to how the economy might be improved.
It is Labour’s approach, however, which is perhaps the most intriguing, given that in the days of the Corbyn leadership the party was actively hostile to wealth creation. In debate after debate in the Scottish Parliament, Labour MSPs called for higher taxation and more restrictions on business.
But that new approach seemed confused last week, when at Holyrood the SNP, in quite a cynical attempt to expose Labour divisions (which worked) put forward a motion calling for the devolution of employment powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. This call had been backed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and had sympathy from a great many Labour MSPs, although it is not the position of the UK party.
It was a litmus test for where exactly Scottish Labour stand on issues of the economy. Would they take the Corbynite approach, side with their trade union paymasters, and back devolution of employment powers, or would they instead champion the continued alignment of employment law across the UK, as the business community demands? In the end, we had the answer. Labour MSPs voted in favour of the SNP motion like an undocked wagging tail.
No one seriously believes that the SNP wants to devolve employment law so they can liberalise it. The intention would be to make employment law more onerous in Scotland, therefore adding additional costs to business. Those in charge of attracting inward investment to regions in England must have been rubbing their hands together with glee when they heard that Labour had joined with the SNP in backing this call. It is hardly likely to encourage investors to put their money into Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.
In one vote, Anas Sarwar’s claims that Scottish Labour had become more business-friendly have been exposed as sincere as his smile. By supporting devolution of employment law, he has turned his back on the business community, and any expectation of support from that sector at forthcoming elections. It remains the Scottish Conservatives, steadfast in our support for unified employment law across the UK, who are the only ones speaking up for business and economic growth.
The hypocrisy is that if employment law was ever devolved it is unlikely that anyone in Anas Sarwar’s family firm would ever find themselves with better conditions.
Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.