Friday, 26 September 2014

Job Creating Powers

Scottish ministers stress that the standard by which they will judge any enhanced devolution package is the extent of the ‘job creating powers’ contained therein. The assumption is that Scotland currently possesses too few such powers and that the potential to create more jobs in Scotland would necessarily be increased through their devolution.

The detail has however been sadly lacking. Advocates have failed to specify which new powers they believe possess job creating properties or the mechanisms by which these powers will interact with existing responsibilities of the Scottish Government to boost the employment rate.

So it leaves us to ask: what new powers could be devolved to the Scottish Parliament that could accurately be described as job creating? How might these be wielded to develop more effective policy? Does it even make sense to frame debate about enhanced devolution in this way?

Some job creating powers are not up for negotiation. The most important short term job creating power is surely monetary policy. If the economy looks to be heading for a downturn expansionary policy should ensure that employment remains higher than would otherwise be the case.

But there is no prospect of monetary policy being devolved; it will remain the responsibility of the Bank of England as it would have done even under the Scottish Government’s own White Paper proposals.

Fiscal powers are another story and it’s reasonable to anticipate tax and borrowing being central to debate over the coming weeks and months. Fiscal policy can certainly play a key role in short term job creation which is why the STUC, the Scottish Government and many economists argued strongly for more stimulus in the period between 2009-2013: interest rates were at a historically low level yet investment remained very weak and unemployment high.

But again, some things are off the table. The main (I’m not arguing it was the best or most appropriate!) fiscal measure introduced to stimulate the economy in late 2008 was a 2p cut in the rate of VAT. This power can’t be devolved to Scotland under EU rules. There are likely to be other constraints – not least borrowing limits – on Scotland’s ability to introduce expansionary fiscal policy under enhanced devolution.

At this point it’s important to draw a distinction between the short and long-term. In a blog written just before the referendum, Professor David Bell of Stirling University argued that:

“ is not clear that monetary and fiscal policies have a long-run role in increasing employment. Some economists argue that lower taxes and lower public spending will unleash the ‘animal spirits’ that make for faster economic growth. However, among more developed economies, this case is not particularly persuasive. Germany is Europe’s largest and most resilient economy. It is certainly not characterised by low taxes and low public spending”.

So what powers might be devolved that help grow the employment rate in the longer-term? Remember Scotland already possesses powers which profoundly influence longer term job creation: full control of economic development, the education system, skills and training and transport. Of course all powers – health, the legal system and so on – contribute in some shape or form to the long-term economic development of the nation.

It’s also worth considering some of the policy commitments made by Scottish Ministers during the campaign. Most of the policies (innovation agency, Scottish Business Development Bank, skills, strengthening collaboration etc) mooted in the Scottish Government’s Reindustrialising Scotland paper could be delivered with current powers.

So what’s left?

Certainly a case can be made that further fiscal devolution can, if used cleverly, assist in boosting job creation. Devolution of R&D tax credits – currently irrelevant to most of Scottish industry – could enable financial incentives more appropriate to Scotland’s industrial structure to be developed. Devolving National Insurance may not be as radical as some argue and could create potential for boosting job creation through targeted derogations. Borrowing powers could be more flexible than those currently proposed – with incentives to fund good projects that will facilitate further development rather than incentives to spend an annual sum on shovel ready projects that may do little to enhance long term job creation. As for Corporation Tax? I truly don't have the energy to go there again. (if you must, here's submission and blogpost)

Devolving the Work Programme may lead to more effective active labour market interventions in Scotland – especially if they’re more generously and consistently funded than has been the case in the UK. Although not necessarily job creating, this should allow for a better functioning labour market in the longer term.

Interestingly, despite many on the Yes side arguing that the UK is a failed economic model, there has been no reference as yet to the devolution of powers with the potential to fundamentally alter the prevailing short termist business culture: responsibility for the structure and regulation of the financial sector (to be fair this would be very difficult if not impossible under devolution) corporate governance and company law.

I guess my problem is that the job creating powers meme creates a false view of the process of economic development. It would be lovely if the process simply involved obtaining and then pulling the requisite ‘levers’. Jobs would flow and all would be happy.

It isn’t difficult to identify a range of policies that would provide an immediate and powerful boost to the North Korean economy. But the long–term economic development of an advanced developed economy like Scotland, with already comparatively (too) lightly regulated labour and product markets, is an altogether more complex matter. In trying to boost the long-term employment rate there are no silver bullets. Indeed, it is contestable whether Government policy has much of an influence at all.

For Scotland and other advanced economies, long-term economic development is likely to be a tortuous slog. Small steps in mundane areas of policy will prove more effective than sexy big ticket programmes. Jobs will be created and sustained if new powers are used cleverly in conjunction with existing powers. As a small open economy we also require global economic conditions to be kind to us. There are no powers whose job creating properties are a given.

Stephen Boyd


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Yes vote - nationalism or despair?

STUC is encouraging guests to blog on key aspects of social justice, the referendum and further powers.  The views and analysis are not ours - but they will be interesting.  In this one David Webster looks at the correlation between the Yes vote and those on income related benefits and has some messages for Labour. The chart in the article is reproduced at the end of the article in a larger scale.

The attached chart shows that most (71%) of the variation in the Yes vote share in the Referendum across Scottish local authorities can be explained by the percentage of the population living on means tested benefits or tax credits, as defined in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. This is a very strong effect by any standards and suggests that other explanations – such as pre-existing commitment to nationalism as shown by the previous SNP vote, or religious affiliation – have little power. The chart suggests that actual preference for independence is no greater than it was known to be already - i.e. at most one third of the electorate. This is indicated by the evidence in the chart that a hypothetical local authority with no one on benefits would have voted No by 73% to 27%.

The chart also shows that the significance of the Yes vote in Glasgow has been overstated. The city was absolutely in line with the national trend, once deprivation is taken into account. Dundee and Highlands, by contrast, had clearly bigger Yes votes than the national trend would suggest, while Orkney, Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway had lower Yes votes.

A 1 percentage point increase in the percentage of population on benefits increased the Yes vote by 1.3 percentage points. This shows that the ‘benefits’ effect cannot have been due simply to voting by people currently on benefits. Also, Lord Ashcroft's poll at has only 10% of voters saying that benefits were among the two or three most important influences on their vote. So the ‘benefits’ effect is probably both representing people on benefits and proxying for something else. What is the something else?

The Catholic archbishop of Glasgow has argued (Herald, 23/9/2014) that ‘despair and deprivation’ were key factors in the vote, because too many people ‘feel threatened and disheartened by poor life chances’. He seems to be right. Certainly, the Yes campaign appeared to gain enormous traction through constant references to issues such as the bedroom tax and the growth of Food Banks, while Labour Party dissidents like Bob Holman specifically campaigned to win over disadvantaged people to Yes.

The claim that independence would help the disadvantaged is based on hope, not evidence. Bob Holman likes to attack the Westminster parliament for its social privilege – but Scottish MSPs are four times more likely to have gone to private schools than their constituents (Herald, 7/4/2014), and there are more ex-manual workers in the House of Lords than there are in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP largely represents constituencies which were previously Tory. And the SNP’s record in government is hardly encouraging – a 25% cut in further education funding while universities stay free, a council tax freeze which cuts services on which poor people rely but disproportionately benefits the better-off, an almost total lack of progressive labour market policies. Not to mention, of course, that a post-independence Scotland would be beset by funding problems, due to factors such as the costs of setting up a new state, the need to build up currency reserves, the loss of tax revenue from companies moving south, higher borrowing costs, unfavourable EU entry terms, and loss of population due to discriminatory policies against migrants from the rest of the UK. The Irish Free State in the 1920s and 1930s offers a salutary warning – it cut old age pensions and school meals to pay for lucrative new state jobs, lost more population after independence than before, and by repudiating its debt (the ‘land annuities’), provoked a trade war with the UK which caused lasting damage to the Irish economy.

Nevertheless there is a lot of work for the Labour movement to do. The lesson that it was neoliberal policies, mainly of the Tories since Thatcher, which nearly lost the Union, while it was the Labour movement that saved it, needs to be hammered home. It has to challenge the Yes campaigners now to shift their energies to delivering the policies and programmes to tackle disadvantage which lie within the soon-to-be expanded powers of the Scottish Parliament. And it has to show that neoliberalism can be defeated across the UK.
Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Unsated thirst for a just Scotland

After two years, during which the independence referendum has been the all consuming context for political and economic decision making in Scotland, the people have spoken.

While the result was a decisive vote for Scotland to remain in the UK, with 45% voting YES, support for an independent Scotland is now at an all time high.

In the weeks ahead the vote will be the subject of much analysis. From the information currently available it would appear that, in general terms, by large majorities the young voted YES* and the elderly voted NO; the poor voted YES and the rich NO (the three local authority areas which voted YES are the three with the lowest employment rates in Scotland); a substantial number of ‘traditional’ Labour supporters voted YES (as did a fair number of Labour activists); and while the votes of union members may well have been fairly evenly split, in all likelihood, taken together, a majority of current and potential union members voted YES. All of this has considerable implications for the trade union and labour movement across the UK. That said it is important to avoid reaching kneejerk conclusions based on such generalisations. 

The one thing that can be said with complete certainty is that the Referendum was a triumph for democracy.  The phenomenal turnout came on the back of months of discussion and debate in workplaces, in communities and within families. There was a thirst for information and engagement the like of which I have not previously witness.

I am immensely proud of the role the STUC played through our ‘A Just Scotland’ initiative in responding to that demand. 

The binary way in much of the media reported the Referendum meant that, by deciding not to promote a YES or NO position, the contribution made by the STUC and by affiliates representing the majority of union members, received marginal coverage, particularly in the latter part of the campaign. 

However, I know that the STUC’s contribution was hugely valued by unions and their members and was commended by a range of serious commentators for its balance and the rigour of its analysis. A quick look at our three ’A Just Scotland’ papers will easily reveal how accurate we were from the outset in highlighting the critical issues: the lack of credibility of the Scottish Government’s position on currency; the need for the unionist parties to address the demand for further Devolution and commit to retaining the Barnett formula; and the central importance of fairness and social justice to a large swathe of the electorate. All were defining issues. 
We also played our part in igniting the vast civic movement for real and progressive change that has grown in Scotland in the last two years.

More trade unionists and their families registered and turned out to vote than ever before. Many of those voting, some for the first time, and on both sides, voted for the constitutional settlement they felt would create a fairer and more just Scotland. Our politicians must pay heed. 

They must also pay heed to the clear demand for significant new powers for the Scottish Parliament and for more direct engagement with people and communities over the decisions which affect their lives, including within the workplace.

It is essential that the forthcoming discussions on further powers are not left to the politicians alone and deliver a substantial and meaningful package. The voice of civil society, so important in the creation of the Scottish Parliament, must be heard. The STUC and others must be at the table.

Unfortunately, the signs are ominous. The appointment of an unelected politician to lead the process is hardly a sign of inclusiveness or respect for democratic participation. While Scots are clearly impatient for change, the timetable which Gordon Brown invented and over which there now appears to be less consensus than we were led to believe, is hardly conducive to intensive civil and community involvement.  Furthermore, the package of proposals, from the little detail we know of it, and the conditions on Scottish representation at Westminster that some clearly wish to attach, are unlikely to satisfy.

The motion lodged in the House of Commons calls for consultation with the Scottish people on the proposals of all three UK parties.  Are we simply to be handed down minimalist proposals developed in a pre-referendum context which we can either take or leave? 

The STUC published it views on enhanced devolution prior to the Referendum. It would be odd if we did not recognise that 45% of the public voted for all of Westminster’s powers to transfer to the Scottish Parliament and reconsider our position.           

Constitutional change is about powers but it is also about purpose. For us and for a vast number of those who voted YES and NO, that purpose is a fairer more socially just Scotland. To date, the focus on further devolution has been on fiscal and welfare powers. However, the important levers are those over wages and the labour market. It would, therefore, be appropriate for us to look again at the case, for example, for the devolution of powers over employment and trade union rights, including union recognition and collective bargaining and other forms of workplace democracy, and over the minimum wage.  

The constitutional debate in Scotland can no longer be held in isolation from a debate about de-centralisation across and within the UK as a whole, or crucially within our own movement. There is much to be won for working people through union leadership of the debate on enhanced regional government in England and further devolution in Wales and Northern Ireland.   

The structure of the trade union movement including the arrangements of our trade union centres must reflect the post-referendum reality. We need an early and mature debate about the relationship between unions and the trade union centres in all jurisdictions of the UK, a debate which arguably should have taken place well before now. 

On the 15 October the STUC will be hosting a major conference to discuss our movement’s policy priorities in the light of Thursday’s result. On the Saturday following, 18 October, we invite all of those who want a fairer Scotland and a Scottish Parliament with the power to deliver it to join us in marching to a rally in George Square in Glasgow.

We must hold our politicians to the pledges they made and tell them loud and clear - the time for a Just Scotland is now.  

Grahame Smith
General Secretary STUC

*At the time of writing the available evidence used was the Ashcroft poll however a subsequent YouGov poll presented a different picture. Taken together the available evidence suggests that the 16-24 age group was fairly evenly split whereas the 24+ were more likely to vote 'yes'.  The 65+ age group appears in both polls to have strongly favoured 'no'.  This substantiates our view that trade union members were at least as likely to vote yes as no, but qualifies our view that future members were more likely to vote yes.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Vow & further powers - what next?

1.     With respect to new powers, there is a  trust problem for the three main devolution parties.  STUC itself was highly critical of the timing and presentation of the devolution proposals and the Vow. This mistrust of government is not confined to the 45% yes voters in the referendum.

2.      It is unclear whether ‘the Vow’ swung the independence vote or not.  But that is irrelevant, you don’t get to say ‘I made a promise which I thought I needed to make but as it turns out I didn’t need to make it after all.’

3.      The apparent attempt to include wider Westminster Reform (reducing Scottish MP voting rights) as part of a further powers package is a prima facie breach of trust and cannot be accepted.  Remember ‘the best of both worlds’ slogan?

4.      Even if it weren’t a breach of trust, the creation of a UK Westminster Parliament with MPs having different voting rights is not ‘English Devolution’.  That would be a) the creation of English Parliament exercising certain powers devolved from Westminster (Hence completing the devolution of the nations within the UK)  b) Devolution to the English regions of the English Parliament as a separate process and  not as an alternative to a).  David Cameron and his colleagues can aspire to be the Prime Minister of Britain or the First Minster of England – but not both.

5.      Whilst quick and decisive first steps are vital, it would be a mistake to judge the success of the ‘Vow’ by how quickly it is implemented, if that means that what is implemented is sub-optimal and not the subject of proper consultation.

6.      It is highly possible that any future constitutional settlement for the UK will be asymmetrical.  The very fact that one of the four nations involved in the union is six times bigger than the rest put together (with all the disproportionate direct and indirect influence this entails) may require a constitutional arrangement which appears less than perfect on paper but which is practically the fairest.

7.      The asymmetrical voting system at Westminster also reflects the fact that the union has always been/has come to be (delete as appropriate) a contract between nations and parliaments.  It reflects national interests as well as distributional equity.  This is also why Scotland’s per capita grant reflects its greater revenue contribution and not an assessment of its needs.

8.      Devo Max is not on the table.  It has only been broadly defined in the Scottish context. Even accepting that Devo Max is not clearly defined, the proposals of the Westminster parties comprise a mixture of options for possible further devolution of some, but not the majority of taxes and very few aspects of welfare.  This is not Devo Max.

9.      The aforementioned position is not the general understanding of Scottish voters who probably think there is more on the table than is actually being offered. The pro-devolution parties might argue that this is not their fault (they did after all publish their individual proposals).  But this would put them on very, very thin ice, given that they have had two and a half years to get this right and waited until just a few days before the referendum to make the Vow.

10.   Therefore, even if the promised timescale is adhered to, and even if the additional devolution powers are towards the maximum end of the spectrum of possibilities within the three parties’ proposals, a significant number of people - all of the 45% of yes voters and a chunk of the 55% of the no voters – are likely to be unhappy.

11.   It not necessarily easy or necessarily advisable to adopt a Devo Max model such as full fiscal autonomy. This is something which of course can be investigated, but brings a range of potential difficulties which will be explored in future blogs.

12.   Devolving a lot of tax, but not including some proportion of North Sea Oil revenues makes it difficult to increase powers without  reducing revenues.  This needs to be investigated further.

13.   It is also hard to devolve parts of the welfare system but not others.  There are a number of possible mechanisms which might be explored but it’s difficult to imagine significant changes without reform of the UK Welfare system, which has of course just been reformed through the creation of Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payments etc.

14.   Such was the number of supporters of both Yes and No whose key aim was to promote social justice that other powers including employment law, equalities legislation and to empower communities should be considered.

For most of the above reasons, the current proposed process for delivering powers is insufficient in terms of participation and scope. The UK Government/devolution parties need to fully engage the democratically elected Scottish Government (which is particularly representative of the 45% on this matter).  This should be augmented by a citizen–led process for discussing and refining the devolution plan, a process which includes not just the established civil society organisations, but - through citizens juries or similar mechanisms -  the voices of those (both yes and no) which turned the referendum process into a democratic phenomenon.

 Dave Moxham



Thursday, 18 September 2014

One STUC Staffer's 1st Scottish Vote

On the eve of the Independence Referendum in Scotland, I slept badly.  When our baby stirred around 5 am, I wondered to myself, “How many people are up right now, worried about the vote?”  Thankfully, I was able to get the baby back to sleep and get some more shut eye myself.

I became a British Citizen in June this year, instead of taking holidays.  After passing a £50 “Life in the UK” test administered at a local college, I paid the £874 fee to acquire British Nationality.  After taking a pledge of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen at Glasgow City Chambers during a Citizenship Ceremony, at which my American parents, my husband and our son were present to support me, I registered to vote.

At the time, I didn’t realise that my first vote as a British Citizen might also be my last.

Around 7 am, I awoke and got ready for the day.  I woke up the baby who giggled and pretended to sneeze when he saw me (the ultimate compliment!) and upon locating our polling cards hanging on the message board in the hall, we ran out the door with my husband – as no amount of planning ever makes mornings run smoothly in our household.

Derelict lot near to the polling place.
Being in a hurry, we drove to the heart of the Calton to our polling station.  Finding a space to park near to the Calton Heritage Learning Centre was not an easy task, despite the amount of derelict buildings and vacant lots in the vicinity.  I noticed that there wasn’t a queue outside, as I had expected, but there was a steady stream of folks who were coming and going as I paused to ask my husband to take a snap of me before my first ever vote in Scotland.

I looked down at the ground as I walked up to the door, and noticed names and dates on the paving stones.  My husband remarked to me, “Those are the names of all the women who died in the factory fire,” referring to the Templeton Carpet Factory disaster which occurred across the street from the polling station in 1889.  I did a quick calculation in my head, and realised the fire disaster was 125 years ago.  I shook my head, reflecting on how the past meets the future, walked on and smiled at the YES and NO people standing outside the door without stopping to speak to anyone.

Commemorative stones to the 29 workers.
Inside the door of the Learning Centre, I stopped short.  There were two police officers standing in the hallway, and it threw me – mainly, because I had never seen a police officer in a polling station in my life.  Carrying our son, my husband passed by me and looked at a bunch of signs on white paper at the end of the hall.  It was then that I realised how grateful I was that he was there, because I was out of my depth.  He said a number to me, which I then found out was our ballot box number, and made a mental note to remember to check this in the future.  We handed our cards to the two gentlemen at our polling table, and they made some notes on a long list.  In watching them, I noticed that I was the 88th person to vote at that station so far today.  I was handed my ballot, kindly given directions to mark a cross in one box, fold the paper once, and drop it in the box next to them.

I walked over to the ballot booths and noticed that there was no curtain to pull, which was another change.  My husband stood next to me, holding our baby, in the next booth to mine, but I didn’t look at him.  I read the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and my mind went blank.

Utter mental panic ensued in the space of 10 seconds. 

A ballot paper.
“What am I voting?”  “Am I marking YES or NO?”  “Don’t pull a ‘Donna Moss’ with your vote.” “What’s he voting?” “What am I supposed to remember?” “Get a grip, Jennifer.  Decide, and mark your vote.”

I re-read the question, marked my ballot, folded it in half, and dropped it in the box.

Do I feel different?  Yes, I do. 

In March 2015, I will have lived in Scotland for a decade, and for about half that time, I’ve been living in Glasgow.  I have always taken an active interest in local politics and government in every community I’ve ever lived in, as all of my local councillors, MSPs and MPs can attest (probably to their annoyance and my husband’s chagrin).

A Just Scotland

I’ve listened to the well-reasoned arguments both for and against independence, read the White Paper and the “A Just Scotland” series of analysis from the STUC, taken part in discussions on the “American Expats in Scotland” groups on Facebook, read (often amusing) enthusiastic comments and discussion from members of the STUC Youth Committee, bantered with long-time personal friends who happen to work in the civil service, been shut down by relatives who didn’t want to discuss the vote, prayed and reflected on my own, spoken at the play park with parents and grandparents from all walks of life and varied countries of birth, been annoyed in different cities at the propaganda stuck on every surface imaginable, watched the shouty debates on television, engaged on Twitter and most of all, conversed with my husband about our future and what world we want our son to grow up in, hereafter.

Today, I voted for the first time in Scotland.  I’ll probably sleep badly again tonight.  But tomorrow, I’ll be ready to engage with everything this vote is kicking off as a stepping stone to changing the status quo. 

A month from today, on the 18th October, I’ll march from Glasgow Green with YES voters and NO voters alike, uniting in solidarity for A Just Scotland. 

Why don’t you join us?

Jennifer Payne

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

STV debate and the STUC's position on the referendum

I regret having to write this short blog which I worry will look stupidly self-important. But I don’t think I can get away with not doing so given proximity to the referendum and the fact that the STUC’s non-aligned position has until now been scrupulously maintained.

During last night’s live STV referendum debate (which, being on a train home from Manchester at the time, I didn’t see) Douglas Alexander MP, speaking on behalf of Better Together mentioned my name...whilst inadvertently handing me a promotion! Here’s the full context:

The following question was asked from the floor:

"Given Labour's move to the right under the guidance of Douglas Alexander and Tony Blair, would you not think Scotland would be better placed, as a left wing Labour voter, under a Labour government voted in for by the people of Scotland, in an independent government?"

Douglas answered thus:

"Well, I would start with the historical mission of the Labour movement, which has been to look out for the interests of working people.  Why is it there is not a single large trade union supporting Yes?  It’s because the Labour movement understands that our unity is our strength and it will disadvantage, not help, working people across Scotland if we have a race to the bottom on wages, on terms and conditions; if we were to see a higher tax, higher regulation, higher terms and conditions Scotland alongside what would be suggested by a Tory Government in England, lower tax, lower wages, lower regulation, what's the logic of capitalism?  That those businesses would move south.  The way that we've made advances as the Labour movement over the last 60 years is by working together.  It took the votes of working men and women in Newcastle and Belfast and Cardiff to deliver a National Health Service and a welfare state.  I believe the way that we can do that is by having redistributive policies and after seven years of a Scottish Government here in Holyrood, they haven't implemented a single redistributive measure.  Don’t take my word for it; look at the words of Stephen Boyd, the Deputy General Secretary of the STUC.”"

Although I’m very confident this wasn’t the intention, Douglas mentioning my name in this context could leave the impression that I (and by extension the STUC) am hostile to the Scottish Government and/or anti Scottish independence. I accept that a precise reading of the words doesn’t necessarily lead to this conclusion but I’m already aware that some didn’t hear it in this way.

While being unable to recall writing anything which directly conforms to the above characterisation I certainly make no apologies of being critical –sometimes very critical - of the Scottish Government although it must be stressed that I always endeavour to ensure that any of my personal media contributions – mainstream or social – are wholly consistent with STUC policy. Areas where the STUC has been most vocal in its opposition to Scottish Government policy, and where I am the policy lead, include corporation tax, tax framework post-independence and small business bonus.

Scottish Ministers tend to react reasonably constructively to this criticism.  On some issues we agree to disagree but in other areas where the STUC is not uncritical – inequality, industrial policy – there is ongoing dialogue aimed at improving policy outcomes. At our last meeting with the First Minister we agreed a programme of work to develop policy in three areas: the foundational economy, manufacturing/reindustrialisation and inequality. Being official-led this work is behind the scenes, boring and long-term. It might lead to nothing or, who knows, we might develop world changing interventions.

The STUC was of course heavily involved in the recently published Working Together review of progressive workplace policies which stands in stark contrast to the approach to industrial relations at UK level and to which the initial response from Scottish Labour was rather underwhelming.

Regarding the referendum, the STUC’s approach – which I hope is widely recognised by now – is set out in the first two A Just Scotland reports. Our third and final (pre-referendum) report will be published next week. Post referendum – whatever the result – AJS will proceed with a conference and march/rally in October.

For the sake of clarity, no individual at the STUC will take a public Yes/No stance on the referendum and will not do so as it will undermine the position of the STUC. Yes, we might from time to time take a position on social media that is more challenging to the interests of one campaign (for me that’s sometimes meant being harder on Yes as we’ve yet to be convinced by Scottish Government/Yes arguments on the macroeconomic framework) but our overall position is set out in the AJS reports. This approach will not change before the 18 September.

Stephen Boyd