The Scottish government called on MSPs to block Westminster’s controversial bill on Wednesday, which has been described as the biggest crackdown on workers’ rights for 30 years, as it submitted a legislative consent memorandum asking their parliament to withhold consent from the UK government’s bill.
On Thursday Tricia Marwick, Holyrood’s presiding officer, the equivalent of speaker, rejected the argument led by Scottish cabinet secretary for fair work, skills and training, Roseanna Cunningham, that the bill would have an impact on devolved functions and that legislative consent should be required.
Noting that it was the first time an attempt had been made to lodge such a memorandum without the agreement of both parliaments, Marwick ruled that the tests for relevance were not met by the trade union bill. Thus the requirement for Holyrood’s consent via a legislative consent motion, also known as a Sewel motion, was not triggered. The Sewel convention applies when the Westminster parliament legislates on a matter that is normally dealt with by the Scottish parliament and can happen only if Holyrood has given its consent.
Expressing disappointment at the decision, a Scottish government spokesperson said: “Last month’s Scottish parliamentary debate on the trade union bill confirmed that there is clear opposition to this draft legislation in Scotland.
“There is little or no evidence to support its proposals and the UK government has made no attempt to consider how the bill impacts in Scotland and in particular on our public services. Our requests to be excluded from the bill have also been ignored.
“While we are disappointed by this news, we will be seeking other ways for the Scottish parliament to express its discontent with the legislation.”
Scottish Labour, which also sought legal advice on the possibilities afforded by a Sewel motion but stepped back to allow the Scottish government to make the initial application, insisted that it too would pursue other avenues. “We are not giving up on this,” said a spokesperson.
On Thursday evening, the first minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, shared a platform with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at a Scottish trades union congress event in Glasgow opposing the bill, which includes plans to curb unions’ ability to call strikes and restrict the flow of union funds to the Labour party.
Speaking at the rally at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Corbyn pledged to repeal the trade union bill if Labour was elected in 2020, as he set out a range of measures to extend workers’ rights, including giving every employee a vote on executive pay.
He said: “Not only will we repeal the trade union bill when we get back in in 2020, we will extend people’s rights in the workplace and give employees a real voice in the organisations they work for.
“That means new trade union freedoms and collective bargaining rights, of course, because it is only through collective representation that workers have the voice and the strength to reverse the race to the bottom in pay and conditions.”
This article was written by Libby Brooks, for theguardian.com on Thursday 10th December 2015 22.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010