SNP's flagship living wage pledge applies to only 2.4% of jobs

A flagship scheme launched by Nicola Sturgeon aimed at creating fairer conditions for Scotland's workers applies to just 2.4 per cent of jobs across the country, it has emerged.

Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to better promote the Business Pledge. Picture: John Devlin
Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to better promote the Business Pledge. Picture: John Devlin

The SNP’s “Business Pledge” aims to ensure firms pay a living wage and recruit more women while also phasing out unpopular zero-hours contracts.

But fewer than 60,000 of Scotland’s 2.6 million-strong workforce are employed by a firm signing up to the pledge - with only 293 (0.2 per cent) of companies across Scotland taking part Scotland’s firms taking part. The take-up is poor in traditionally low pay sectors with insecure work, with just one company from the ‘accommodation and food services’ sector.

Labour is now calling on Nationalist ministers to “up their game” and improve the scheme’s take-up.

Economy spokesperson Richard Leonard said: “The Business Pledge is a laudable goal, but these figures show how ineffective the government has been in promoting it.

“A strong economy providing fair work and a living wage is something we support, but the SNP has only convinced 0.2 per cent of Scottish business to sign up to their flagship scheme, with only 2.4 per cent of Scottish jobs covered by it.

“The lack of progress in traditional low wage sectors with insecure work like hotels and hospitality is also a worry.”

The Business Pledge was announced by Ms Sturgeon in her first major speech following the 2015 General Election. To sign up to the pledge, a company must commit to paying the living wage and to two other criteria, ranging from not using zero hour contracts to paying bills promptly.

Of all the criteria, ‘making progress on gender balance and diversity’ is at the bottom of the list, with only 35 per cent of companies signing up.

Mr Leonard added: “Questions need to be asked if the SNP is truly making the persuasive economic case for a gender-balanced workforce.

“The first step towards a fairer economy would be a living wage guarantee in all public contracts, meaning a better wage for some of Scotland’s lowest paid workers.”

Ms Sturgeon launched the pledge at Hearts’ Tynecastle stadium last year and said it would help deliver a fairer society.

She added: “The pledge is ambitious but it is also intended to be achievable. It encourages firms to take further steps that will benefit their employees, their local communities and crucially their own bottom line.”