Sturgeon to Corbyn: Back employment law devolution

Nicola Sturgeon has written a letter to Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Nicola Sturgeon has written a letter to Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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NEW Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been challenged to back an SNP bid to give Holyrood control over trade union and employment law.

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has written to the veteran left winger, calling on him to co-sign an amendment her party will put forward to the Scotland Bill transfer responsibility for this area to MSPs.

Mr Corbyn and the Scottish nationalists have already hit out at controversial proposals from the UK Government to reform trade union laws.

The Trade Union Bill - which last week passed its first vote in the House of Commons - introduces a 50 per cent threshold in union strike ballots and also includes a clampdown on picketing, allowing firms to employ agency staff to cover for strikers, and changes to union funding of Labour.

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Scottish Labour described the First Minister’s comments as “a crude attempt to play politics with trade union rights”.

Ms Sturgeon said despite opposition to the proposals “in all likelihood the Tories are going to prevail” and the Bill will become law.

She added: “That makes it all the more important in my view we take the opportunity to devolve power over trade union and employment legislation from Westminster to Holyrood.”

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With legislation to devolve new powers to Scotland being considered in the current Scotland Bill before Westminster, the First Minister told journalists: “The SNP will lay an amendment to the Scotland Bill when the House of Commons comes back to do just that. We know it’s got the support of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). I am asking Labour now to change its position and support us on that.

“I’m writing to Jeremy Corbyn to ask him to cosign that amendment with the SNP and secondly to give a commitment that Labour, all of it, will vote for the devolution of trade union and employment legislation.”

In her letter to the new Labour leader Ms Sturgeon says the “Tory Government’s assault on worker’s rights” is a joint area of concern for herself and Mr Corbyn.

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“The strength of feeling about worker’s rights among the vast majority of MSPs means that such draconian legislation would quite simply never see the light of day in Scotland,” she told him.

“This means the Scotland Bill is a golden opportunity to protect workers in Scotland. I am sure you will agree that this is a prize worth aiming for.”

A Scottish Labour Spokesman said: “This proposal is opposed by many trade unions and by the TUC because of the damaging impact it would have on jobs and employment rights across the UK. This is nothing but a crude attempt to play politics with trade union rights.

“The First Minister knows that the Government has a majority in the House of Commons and, much like her own majority in Holyrood, the Government will not allow this amendment to pass.

“Nicola Sturgeon might also want to reflect on why her MPs did not even bother voting on their own amendment to devolve employment legislation when the issue was considered before the summer recess.

“She could also use the powers of the Scottish Government to block the worst provisions of the Bill and instruct SNP councils to do the same.”