Living Wage in Scottish Football

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

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.

Although Scottish Athletics may not have been accredited, it was a living wage employer. That point was lost in translation for some, so it is important to get that clarification on the record.

As I said, I will not get too involved in the club aspects, but I put on record the good work that Heart of Midlothian Football Club has done since October 2014, when it became an accredited living wage employer. We can encourage other clubs and, indeed, all employers to do that. The Government and the Parliament have a target of increasing the number of living wage employers throughout Scotland, and that is a target throughout the United Kingdom.

I have some sympathy for the Scottish Professional Football League, which feels that it is being victimised in this area, as it is the only operation that is being asked to give unanimous approval. Why is it being singled out? Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive, has said:

“why is football the target of focus here and not any other individual sector? Our clubs and their staff carry out huge amounts of positive work in their communities and through charitable initiatives of which the SPFL is very proud and we feel these activities are richly deserving of attention and focus.”

I agree with him. We have to be careful that we do not victimise and pillorise the Scottish Professional Football League. Work can be done and there is cross-party consensus on encouraging people to move forward in that way. However, we should not single out what is, as James Dornan said, a great sport that is enjoyed by so many in this country for some of the criticism and demands that we have heard today when we are not willing to make those demands of every other sector in the country.

I am grateful to Mr Dornan for taking this matter forward. I know that he has written to a number of clubs and I believe that there is a will to move forward on this issue. Every club in Scotland, I understand, pays the minimum wage and some are moving towards the living wage. We would like everyone across Scotland to be able to provide the wages to ensure that their staff can live comfortably but also do the work that they enjoy.

There is work to be done; there is more that we can do. I am pleased to take part in the debate, but I am slightly concerned that some of the comments could be seen as attacking one sector without looking at the breadth of issues that we have to face in Scottish society.