Scottish independence: Salmond offers union talks

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has offered to meet with union leaders representing more than 20,000 defence industry workers after being accused of twice snubbing them over concerns about the impact of independence on jobs.

Over 40 people working for public bodies are earning more than the First Minister. Picture: Hemedia

The union leaders, including the ones representing shipyard workers in Rosyth and on the Clyde told the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee that their questions over the future of the defence industry had not been answered in the Scottish Government’s white paper.

But their request for a meeting with Mr Salmond in June had been turned down and instead they have been offered a 45-minute meeting with Scottish Government veterans minister Keith Brown on 13 August just a month before the historic vote on independence.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

In comparison Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael met them for an hour and a half within days of requesting a meeting.

The representatives told MPs they had “no doubt” that the defence companies would move their work to the rest of the UK but said they wanted to hear from the Scottish Government why they thought “things will stay the same”.

Kenny Jordan of Unite said: “They [The Scottish Government] can only afford us three-quarters of an hour for us to debate what we see as a very, very serious matter because come the 17 and 18 September our members need to make a lifelong decision of whether or not there is going to be a hope for their industry going forward in a possible independent Scotland.”

He told MPs they first requested a meeting with Mr Salmond in 2012 but were eventually offered one with two civil servants who told them their questions would be answered in the white paper published last November.

Mr Jordan went on: “Our belief is that that white paper does not answer those questions.

“We once again wrote to the First Minister. That was handed to Keith Brown to offer a response and unfortunately because of parliamentary business or whatever the earliest opportunity they have is 13 August for three-quarters of an hour.”

However, the Scottish Government denied snubbing the defence industry unions.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman pointed out that the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Finance Secretary John Swinney and Mr Brown have all met with the shipbuilding unions over the past year.

She said that letter from the unions asked for a meeting “with an appropriate minister” which is why it was passed to Mr Brown.

However, she added: “The First Minister would of course be happy to meet in addition to the union meeting with Mr Brown.”