Living Wage in Scottish Football

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 September 2016.

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Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

That general message is applicable to all members of the Scottish Parliament, Presiding Officer, and not necessarily just Mr Finnie. However, thank you for highlighting that.

As minister with responsibility for sport, I saw much of the good work that is done through the football clubs and their arm’s-length trusts. In that regard, I declare my interest as a member of the Jags Trust. Indeed, just recently, I was able to see that in my area when I met Clyde Football Club Community Foundation and saw the work that Cumbernauld Colts Football Club does.

In my current area of responsibility, we know that many football clubs, including Alloa Athletic, Raith Rovers, Celtic and Rangers, along with Greenock Morton Community Trust and Falkirk Football Community Foundation are engaged in the provision of employability support programmes. Indeed, Morton is now in the top two providers of such programmes in Inverclyde. It delivers programmes that see, on average, 59 per cent of participants moving into work.

A lot of good working is happening, but football’s social responsibility need not stop there. As the debate has highlighted, football clubs can also play their part in tackling in-work poverty. Clubs are often leaders in their communities and they can show leadership on pay as well. Hearts is to be applauded for becoming an accredited living wage employer and recognising the many benefits that that can bring. Only four football clubs in the United Kingdom are accredited living wage employers, Hearts being the only Scottish one. The others are Chelsea, Luton Town and, interestingly, Football Club United of Manchester, which is a semi-professional football team. That shows that there is significant space for growth in the number of football clubs in Scotland and beyond that could be accredited.

Other football clubs across Scotland are paying a living wage. I urge them to join Hearts in becoming accredited. Clearly, it would be positive for the clubs to be visible and to be recognised. Indeed, if clubs are paying the living wage, they should get that recognition.

I will not comment in detail on the exchange between Mr Ross and Mr Dornan about Scottish Athletics, but a clear benefit of accreditation—I think that this is the point that Mr Dornan was alluding to—is that it puts beyond doubt whether an organisation is paying the living wage. Of course, this Administration has enlightened self-interest in more football clubs taking part in the scheme and becoming accredited, as that will assist us in hitting an ambitious target to increase the number of accredited living wage employers to 1,000. I say in passing that the target is reasonable and ambitious, given that we started off—it was not so long ago—by having no accredited living wage employers. Of course, if we can go further, we would be delighted to.

We have made progress with the living wage in Scotland. We now have the highest proportion in the UK of employees who are paid the living wage or more, but we want to go further. Football can play a significant role in that. We know that paying the living wage is important, and not only for those who would be in receipt of it. Ruth Maguire was quite right to point out that supporting greater equality in our economy and economic growth are not mutually incompatible. Indeed, as our recent labour market strategy highlighted, those two aspects support one other. More equal societies are more productive societies, so we will continue to make every effort to promote living wage in football and beyond.

13:21 Meeting suspended.

On resuming—