THE SNP leadership candidates faced a series of questions on issues including tax, fair work, public sector pay, the national care service and energy in a hustings hosted by The National and SNP Trade Union Group.

STUC general secretary Roz ­Foyer chaired the event in Glasgow ­yesterday as Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf were grilled by an audience of trade unionists who are also SNP members.

The candidates were asked how they would support fair work and trade unions right now, particularly at the time of the UK Government’s proposed anti-strike legislation.

Regan pointed to the example of European countries in having a “totally different” type of industrial relations.

She said: “They have a totally different type of industrial relations there, there is a much more collaborative working arrangement between the trade unions and the management.

“It is not seen so much as a zero-sum game, where everyone is not as much conflict, so I would like to see us working towards more of a model like that. There is a role for government in there, and to try to create that leadership role and get into that more collaborative working, where the voice of the trade unions is very strongly represented in things we are doing in that area.”

Yousaf said that while Scotland did not have full powers of employment law, it was vital to demonstrate what could be done within devolution.

“We want to inspire people about ­independence, how can they be ­inspired if we don’t use every single leverage, every single lever, every single power we have at the moment to embed fair work principles right across the public and private sector?” he said. “We have to continue the work around the Real Living Wage and Real Living Wage employment, but for me, we can set the gold standard within public service. That’s why it is so important the work I have been doing with NHS colleagues, to review, for example, Agenda for Change.”

Yousaf was met with applause when he said he wanted to eliminate spending on agency staff in the NHS. He also pledged not to comply with the UK Government’s anti-strike ­legislation, adding “that is not just for the NHS.”

Forbes echoed that promise ­describing it as a law inflicted by a government that has “literally no ­respect for workers”.

She also said it was vital to lead by example within the public sector, but added the private sector was the “tricky bit”.

“We need to look again at how we give a lot more teeth to the work that we do with the private sector,” she said.

“We have got things like the business pledge – but it is voluntary, ­people can sign if they want to or not sign if they want to, obviously that commits them to fair work.

“At the moment the public ­sector is quite large in Scotland – ­proportionally it is larger in Scotland than it is elsewhere say in England, for example.

“So we have got a lot of point with contact with the private sector – when we go out to tender whether it is for construction projects or other initiatives in the public sector, we are weighing up bids that come in – and I think that is the way you show teeth in terms of a business that doesn’t have fair work practice.

“They shouldn’t be coming through the door when it comes to procurement, they shouldn’t be getting ­opportunities when it comes to ­public sector work.”

The candidates were also asked what plans they had to empower ­local government, with Regan ­saying she would commit to looking at existing funding.

“There may be ways we can do that looking at alternative ways to raise taxes, a review of the replacement of council tax, perhaps that’s the way,” she said.

“I think there is that perception ­often and this is something we need to counter, that the Scottish ­Government is doing things to councils rather than working with them – we need to get away from that and reset that relationship.”

Yousaf joked that at a meeting with activists earlier, someone had ­suggested making Glasgow – the home of his constituency – the capital of an independent Scotland.

He went on: “I absolutely believe in empowering local government, you have to have a new deal with local government. I would quite like to see a kind of Bute House-style agreement like we have with the Greens with ­local government.

“And I think for me what is really the key to that is not just looking at funding, which is important, but also funding mechanisms as well.

“I would absolutely be up for ­loosening ring-fencing, probably not removing it altogether.”

Forbes said more had to be done to empower local government, adding: “I am extremely keen that we get rid of as much ring-fencing as possible.

“So I would go to the other extent of saying that I’d far rather that we had a position where there’s no ­ring-fencing and actually we were agreed on outcomes.”