The UK government is attacking workers’ rights in draconian new laws, which will be imposed on Scotland – despite fierce opposition from Scotland’s democratically elected Parliament.
The UK is also ripping up many workers’ rights that depend on EU laws – such as mandatory rest breaks and holiday pay for part-time workers.
Meanwhile, the UK has slumped seven points to its lowest-ever place in an international ranking of government standards on honesty.
An independent Scotland would be able to get on with building a stronger, fairer country without being dragged down by the UK.
Nurses, teachers could be sacked for refusing to cross a picket line
The controversial “Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill”, which was voted through by the House of Commons this week, will apply to Scotland. An amendment which would give the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments a say was rejected by the Conservatives – the Labour Party abstained. The Labour Party does not believe that employment law should be devolved to Holyrood.
Under the Strikes Bill, some employees in the rail industry and emergency services would be forced to work during industrial action. They could be sacked if they refuse. There will be no right to appeal for workers who lose their jobs for refusing to cross a picket line.
The Bill gives the UK government the power to expand this provision to education, nuclear and broader health services, if the government fails to reach voluntary agreement with these sectors.
The new law will also give employers the right to seek a court injunction to prevent strikes, or to seek damages afterwards if they go ahead.
“Henry VIII clause” gives government ministers enormous power
The bill also contains a controversial “Henry VIII clause“, which would allow UK government ministers to amend the legislation after it has become law without full parliamentary scrutiny.
It was passed by the Commons on Monday with 315 votes to 246 but will face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before it becomes law.
Bonfire of EU laws includes holiday pay for part-time workers and much more
The UK government plans to review or revoke all EU laws left on the UK statute book by the end of 2023 – which now amounts to around 3,700 regulations. The plan has attracted fierce criticism from business groups, legal experts, trade unions and environmental groups. They warn that rushing the review will create costly and destabilising legal uncertainty.
Unison warns that : “Many legal improvements to workers’ rights in the UK, including UNISON’s recent Supreme Court victory that won new holiday rights for part-time workers, are reliant on the courts’ interpretations of EU law, and could be lost. Without the shield of EU law, workers in the UK will be exposed to an Americanised, hire-and-fire culture that makes work more insecure and dangerous.”
Legislation due to be binned by the UK includes: working time regulations which give workers the right to legal rest breaks; rights for part-time workers to be treated equally with full-time workers; maternity and paternity leave (a recent case giving these rights to Uber drivers depended on EU laws); rights for workers whose company is acquired by another firm, and many more.
The UK slumped to its lowest-ever rating on the Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index.
Meanwhile, with the UK government mired in sleaze, Britain’s international ranking for uncorrupt and honest government is the lowest it has ever been.
There have been a series of scandals, from Nadhim Zahawi’s sacking over his tax affairs, to the BBC chair Richard Sharp’s involvement in the financial affairs of Boris Johnson at the time Johnson appointed him to the job. There have also been allegations of corruption around public contracts given out by UK government ministers.
In the latest Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index, the UK’s score dropped by 5 points to 73, resulting in the UK’s position falling from 11th to 18th in the global table – behind countries like Estonia and Uruguay.
Only five of the 180 countries assessed for the 2022 Index saw their year-on-year scores drop by five or more points: the UK (-5), Qatar (-5), Myanmar (-5), Azerbaijan (-7) and Oman (-8).
An independent Scotland can build a brighter future
Scotland is saddled with a right-wing UK government it did not elect. This new battle over basic rights is going to consume time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere.
As part of the UK, Scotland is now being dragged down the international rankings for honest government. Scotland doesn’t need that.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party opposes devolving employment law to Holyrood. It has the same tired old offer for Scotland – long periods of Conservative rule are a price worth paying to be part of the UK. That’s a bad deal. Scotland can do better.
With independence, Scotland can build a stronger, fairer society, more like the Scandinavian model than what the UK is offering.