Scottish Trades Union Congress (Meetings)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:39 am on 2nd October 2008.

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Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 11:39 am, 2nd October 2008

To ask the Scottish Executive when the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing last met representatives of the STUC. (S3O-4396)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I met an official delegation from the STUC in September last year and addressed the STUC women's conference on 13 November last year. Most recently, on 23 September this year, I met representatives of Unison, the Royal College of Nursing and Unite, all of which are constituent members of the STUC.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

As I understand it, the cabinet secretary has refused a request to meet the STUC women's committee and offered them Stewart Maxwell instead. I am sure that Mr Maxwell has a lot to learn from the women of the STUC, but nonetheless I ask the cabinet secretary to reconsider. In times of pay dispute, such a meeting would afford an opportunity for her to explain to women who are among the lowest paid and who face financial pressures why the Scottish National Party, in opposition, was the first on the airwaves to demand Government intervention but, now, Nicola Sturgeon and the others cannot be seen for dust.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Will the cabinet secretary tell the STUC to its face why the SNP, when dealing with low-paid workers, engages in such double standards?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

My commitment to engaging with the STUC women's committee is well evidenced by the fact that, as I said in my original answer, I addressed its conference in November last year. It is entirely appropriate for Stewart Maxwell, who is the minister with lead responsibility for equalities, to meet and engage with that committee. If Margaret Curran has a problem with that, her logic escapes me.

The issues around low-paid workers are incredibly important. John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, has been encouraging constructive dialogue between local authorities and the unions, and I hope that that dialogue will continue and will conclude positively soon. In addition, given that Margaret Curran listened to the exchange in the previous question, it ill behoves her to criticise the Government for a lack of commitment to low-paid workers, given that through, for example, our policy to abolish the unfair council tax, the Government will lift 35,000 people out of poverty. I would have hoped that the party that professes to stand up for social justice would welcome that.