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Trade Union Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 26th January 2016.

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Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I assure Mr Stevenson that our intention is to ask the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee to find the best way to correct the situation in which we find ourselves and that we are not wedded to a particular amendment. I welcome the Government’s support and that of other members for that approach.

So far, so procedural. There is another, far more fundamental reason why we and the Scottish Government should not only oppose the Trade Union Bill but resist it. Christina McKelvie touched on the issue when she expressed concern about the breach of human rights that the bill constitutes. I agree with her. It is clear to us that the bill breaches article 11 of the European convention on human rights, which says that

“Everyone has the right ... to form and to join trade unions” and that no restrictions can be placed on the exercise of those rights except

“in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

That test is not met by the bill.

Such rights are embedded in this Parliament in a way that they are not at Westminster, because under the Scotland Act 1998,

“A member of the Scottish Executive has no power to make any subordinate legislation, or to do any other act, so far as the legislation or act is incompatible with any of the Convention rights”.

We will continue to pursue legal advice on that point. If the cabinet secretary agrees with and has the political will and determination to found on that view, not only should she reject the bill on moral grounds but she should be obliged to reject it on legal grounds.

There is a long way to go in opposing the bill, whether Mr Johnstone and his colleagues like it or not. We intend to stay the course.