Public sector strike: SNP defends ‘duty’ to cross picket line

John Swinney says the plan mirrors that of previous votes. Picture: Ian Georgeson
John Swinney says the plan mirrors that of previous votes. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Finance Secretary John Swinney said today that it was his duty to cross a picket line and lead a Holyrood debate on public sector pensions.

Mr Swinney will be at the Scottish Parliament, despite calls from Labour and the Green Party for politicians to take to the streets with striking public sector employees.

The SNP administration refused to clear the parliamentary timetable and will debate what Mr Swinney called a UK Government “cash-grab” on pensions.

While Labour and the Greens will steer clear, Tory and Liberal Democrat MSPs are expected to take part in the debate.

Mr Swinney, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, said: “I don’t support the strike action - and I’ve already crossed a picket line to come into St Andrew’s House.

“I did that because it’s my duty as a minister in the Scottish Government to carry out my responsibilities on behalf of the people.

“I will go to Parliament later on today and I will lead a debate on public sector pensions.

“I think what the United Kingdom Government has done has been very damaging to the industrial climate of Scotland.

“We have a long-term debate about the sustainability of pensions, which I think is a fair and reasonable debate to have.

“Our prospects of resolving it satisfactorily have been contaminated by the short-term cash-grab of the Treasury to increase people’s contributions to their pensions.

“I think that has badly undermined the climate of trying to deliver long-term sustainability to pensions in this country.”

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers in Scotland have walked out over proposed changes to their pensions.

The vast majority of schools are closed and transport, hospitals, courts and other public services are all affected.