Labour leader addresses inaugural Unite Scotland conference
SCOTTISH LABOUR wants an amnesty on the PS2.5bn pre-devolution local government debt that Scotland owes to the UK Treasury.
In a speech to the inaugural Unite Scotland conference at the Golden Jubilee Hotel in Clydebank on Saturday, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Devolution was to be a fresh start, a new beginning and yet this historical interest is still a millstone around the neck of councils who are facing Scottish Government cuts.
“If the Scottish Government were serious about ending austerity they’d make the case right now for the interest on this debt to be dropped.”
Research from Unite found that since devolution came into force in 1998, local councils in Scotland have paid back PS3.6bn in interest only on the outstanding debt. The interest rate on these debts is usually between seven and eight per cent.
Dugdale told delegates: “Take for example Dundee city, where the equivalent of 55p from every pound raised through council tax is being spent on servicing pre-devolution debt.”
This comes after a motion was passed on Saturday morning at the Unite Conference to say that there is a strong moral case to call for an amnesty on the debt that is owed to the UK Treasury.
By passing this motion, Unite delegates agreed that an amnesty would “create much-needed slack in extremely pressurised Scottish local government budgets”.
Dugdale added: “This is a council that has just offered thousands of voluntary redundancies, and scrapping the pre-devo debt could save as much as PS36m over the next three years.
“Devolution was to be a fresh start, a new beginning and yet this historical interest is still a millstone around the neck of councils who are facing Scottish Government cuts.” Kezia Dugdale
“Devolution was to be a fresh start, a new beginning and yet this historical interest is still a millstone around the neck of councils who are facing Scottish Government cuts.”
Dugdale also told delegates that if Scottish Labour gets into power that an inquiry will be launched into the blacklisting of trade union members. Dugdale told delegates that as part of this investigation it would be up to companies to say whether they have blacklisted any shop steward before any contracts are awarded from the Scottish Government.
Dugdale told delegates: “We are still seeing public contracts being signed here in Scotland with companies that have blacklisted trade unionists.
“Tax payers’ money being given to companies who have ruined the lives of people who just want to work, and in the 21st century that is simply scandalous.
“In Holyrood, my colleague Neil Findlay has persistently pursued the Scottish Government on this issue – working with Unite, the Blacklist Support Group and others for an end to the practice, and justice for those affected.
“We know that this abuse of human rights disproportionately affected Scottish workers more than any other country in the UK.
“Yet when the SNP Government were challenged by Labour in the Scottish Parliament to launch an inquiry into Scottish cases, that call was rejected.”
The blacklisting of trade union members by employers came about after they raised concerns about health and safety and other matters.
This practice was shut down in 2009 after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) exposed details of a large-scale surveillance operation run by a company called The Consulting Association. The company collated files on thousands of construction workers, as well as academics and journalists, and sold the information to 44 construction companies.
At the time, the director of The Consulting Association, Ian Kerr, was fined PS5,000, whereas all 44 companies escaped punishment.
Dugdale’s proposed inquiry would have three components: firstly, forcing companies to apologise for practices that they have used in the past; secondly, give adequate compensation to those members that have been blacklisted; and thirdly, to end the practice of blacklisting trade union members.
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