SCOTTISH Labour have been accused of a “betrayal of Scotland’s workers” after refusing to sign a motion calling for the devolution of employment law to Holyrood.

On Tuesday afternoon, MSP Keith Brown led a member’s business debate on the issue and urged Scottish Labour MSPs to support his motion calling for powers of employment rules to be devolved “immediately”.

However, the party refused to do so and instead argued during the debate that the party’s position is that a “floor” should be created across the UK and then powers may be devolved.

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Brown accused the party’s MSPs of using “weasel words” to cover up a U-turn on their position on employment law being devolved to Scotland, while other SNP MSPs criticised their “flip-flopping” during the tense debate in the chamber.

He also accused Labour of an “outright betrayal” of trade union and party members for their change in position.

Scottish Labour previously supported the devolution of employment rights in their 2021 manifesto, but not a single MSP joined the SNP in calling for increased powers to be given to the Scottish Parliament.

It comes after reports that Anas Sarwar’s Labour group were told not to give their backing to the motion ahead of the debate.

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Michael Marra (above), Scottish Labour MSP for North East Scotland region, intervening in Brown’s contribution, said: “The motion states that the position of the Scottish Labour Party is there has to be a floor created across the UK and then devolution, which is actually the position of the TUC.”

Brown fired back: “I don't know whether he thinks that those from trade unions and workers across Scotland, looking at those weasel words, will give any credence to the Labour Party's position.

“Any reason not to support it just because it's from the SNP.”

The debate was extended by 30 minutes due to the high number of contributions from MSPs.

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Later in the debate, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart criticised Labour’s stance and “failing to sign was a motion I thought they would be running to sign”.

“Now it seems today that we have heard all the flip flops from Labour around about the devolution of employment law,” he added.

Stewart pointed to a previous exchange he had with Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill in the chamber who said it should be devolved.

“This is the first I've heard today about the creation of a floor before employment law could be devolved,” he added.

The National: Maggie Chapman

“I think this is yet another Starmer flip-flop that Scottish Labour has decided to kowtow to, they have taken their orders from Keir, don't rock the boat and we'll deal with this later.”

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman (above) said that when the devolution of employment law was proposed during her time on the Smith Commission, following the independence referendum, Labour representatives “simply said No”.

“If Labour had not vetoed the devolution of employment law by collaborating with the Tories, we could have a real living wage, a total ban on zero hours contracts, on fire and rehire, as well as the reinstatement of employment and trade union rights removed by the Tories,” she said.

“The vague possibility that a new Labour government in London might repeal the worst of Tory anti-worker legislation is not a good enough reason to oppose the devolution of these powers. “And it certainly is not a good enough prospect for our workers and communities now.”

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Meanwhile, Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson told the chamber that he agreed with “strengthening the economy by improving workers rights” and said a Westminster Labour Government would “seek to do [that] for the whole of the UK, not just for parts of the UK”.

“When we've made our calls for devolution of employment law, it's been very clear that is within a regime that creates a floor, a minimum set of standards,” he said.

“That is what we've said both in 2019 and in 2021.”

The National: MSP Daniel Johnson

Johnson (above) quoted Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, who said that a “guaranteed minimum floor of workers’ rights across the UK is a prudent first step towards achieving devolution of employment”.

Scottish Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba insisted that Scottish Labour does support the devolution of employment law, while Monica Lennon said she had concerns over the use of the phrase "immediately" in the motion. 

Brown added: “This cowardly U-turn from Scottish Labour is an outright betrayal, not just of workers in Scotland, but of the Labour members who voted them into office on a ticket to improve conditions for workers and devolve employment rights to the Scottish Government.

“If Scottish Labour cannot even follow through on their own commitments to voters, then how can they be trusted to stand up for the people of Scotland against Westminster cuts and clawbacks.”

MSPs do not vote on Member's Business up for debate but can sign the motion to show their support for an issue.