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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Scottish Living Wage Bill

I was in parliament this morning at a meeting to discuss John Park MSP's members Bill on the Scottish Living Wage. The main aims of the Bill are set out the consultation paper:

"The main objective of the Bill is to increase the number of workers in Scotland who are paid the Living Wage. This consultation seeks views on two approaches which could be pursued independently, in their own right, or together as a package, namely delivering the Living Wage through the public sector procurement processes, and/or by promoting the Living Wage so as to encourage employers, in all sectors, into paying their lowest paid workers the Living Wage."

I have previously dealt with the procurement aspects of the living wage. In my view this should be incorporated into the forthcoming Procurement Bill. The only blockage is the ill advised letter from Alex Neil MSP to the EU Commission. It is possible to get around this by legislating on different grounds as we have explained in our response to the Scottish Government consultation.

The second part of John Park's Bill is equally important and has perhaps received less attention.

"The general duty on Scottish Ministers to promote the Living Wage will be essential in providing the momentum needed to increase the number of people being paid the Living Wage."

This involves a strategic plan and reporting to Parliament following consultation with appropriate interests. This would not only put a political focus on the Scottish Living Wage, but it would also ensure it was consider by officials when drawing up other plans and proposals.

A key element of this is the creation of a Living Wage Unit. They would not only promote the issue internally would would be an important source of advice externally. For example, procurement is a complex area and public bodies need guidance and support in drawing up contracts. In addition the London experience shows that the benefits to the private sector can be promoted through a unit that can demonstrate a strong business case for the Scottish Living Wage. The best way to do this is probably to create a stand alone Commission reporting to Parliament together with some resource within the appropriate government department. That provides the necessary independence while ensuring that government gets the support it needs to ensure they actually deliver on the ministerial duty.

UNISON Scotland strongly supports this member's Bill and hopes it can attract cross party support. There has been good progress with the Scottish Living Wage in the public sector, much more than elsewhere in the UK. The next stage is to spread the social and economic benefits to the private and voluntary sectors. That is the main purpose of this excellent Bill.

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