Annabelle Ewing MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
The Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment (Annabelle Ewing)

Further to yesterday’s tribunal ruling on the long-standing equal pay debacle, will the member be calling on his North Lanarkshire Council colleagues not to proceed with an appeal, to ensure that the people who are entitled to the pay that they should have received years ago now get it?



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
The Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment (Annabelle Ewing)

I, too, congratulate my colleague John Mason on securing the debate. I know that he has a strong track record of working to tackle poverty and low pay for his constituents in Glasgow Shettleston.

I stress at the outset that the Scottish Government takes the issue of low pay very seriously indeed. Moreover, addressing low pay features prominently in the Scottish Government’s programme for government, in which we recognise the real difference that the living wage makes to the people of Scotland and the real difference—to deal with one of Mr Brown’s points—that progressive employment and social policies make to the long-term success of business and the wider community. Indeed, Alex Salmond helpfully advised us of a small business in his constituency, in New Deer, that has just become a living wage accredited employer. That shows the desire on the part of employers across Scotland—whether they are small, medium-sized or large businesses—to recognise that progressive employment policies are the future for sustainable, long-term success in business.

As the chamber will be aware, the Scottish Government is leading the way by doing all that we can within the powers that we have to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from the living wage. For example, despite the sharp reductions imposed on the Scottish budget by the UK Government that we heard the First Minister talking about in First Minister’s questions today, we have nonetheless been able to incorporate a number of distinct measures within our pay policy to protect the pay of our lowest-earning public sector workers, including a commitment to support the Scottish living wage for the duration of this session of Parliament—in fact, we are the first Scottish Government to do so.

Of course, absent statutory powers for Scotland over pay and employment law, that Scottish Government commitment can, by definition, only cover those workers who are covered by our own pay policy, not the wider public sector or private sector. At the same time, however, we are absolutely determined to do what we can to ensure that the inequalities of low pay are tackled in Scotland.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
Annabelle Ewing

I thank the member for his intervention. I agree—I think that it is an absolute disgrace and it is a real kick in the teeth to workers across Scotland and indeed the UK. In my research for today’s debate, I noted a comment from Michael Meacher on the minimum wage, made on his website on 5 November 2012, where he said:

“Blair appointed a Low Pay Commission headed by a CBI big-wig in order to ensure it started at far too low a level, £3.60, and it has never been increased at a rate slightly above the rise in average wages, as was intended, so that it would grow slowly but steadily towards the two-thirds target.”

I think that, in this instance, Michael Meacher sums up the situation very well in terms of Westminster’s failure to act in the interests of the workers.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
Annabelle Ewing

I say gently to Mr Findlay that I am looking at the voting record and I helpfully suggest that he might want to look at it himself—it is in Hansard. I believe that Tony Blair missed all four Commons votes; Jim Murphy missed the vote on second reading; and 33 of 56 Scottish Labour MPs missed another vote. It would be helpful if Mr Findlay went to look at the Hansard record himself.

The Scottish Government has provided further funding to the Poverty Alliance to promote take-up of the living wage accreditation initiative, and it has set a target for at least 150 accredited employers by the end of 2015. That will help to increase the number of employers who are paying the living wage in all sectors throughout Scotland, and thereby help to make decent pay the standard in our country. As at 30 December 2014, the number of accredited employers had increased to 90—slightly higher than the figure that John Mason quoted—so we are evidently making good progress in that regard.

Although the Scottish Government is not able to set pay levels in the private sector or in the wider public sector in Scotland, we are doing all that we can to encourage all organisations to ensure that all staff on lower incomes receive a fair level of pay. We stated in our programme for Government that we will introduce a Scottish business pledge. We will make it clear that we want companies, in return for support from the Scottish Government and its agencies, such as Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to commit to paying the living wage and to fair work, among other things.

The key problem, as we know, is that power over pay is still held in London.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
Annabelle Ewing

I will take a very brief intervention.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
Annabelle Ewing

It should be noted that the white paper set out that we would consider carefully the recommendations of the expert working group on welfare. We intend that, further to that work, the fair work convention will look at issues of pay.

It is no secret that the Scottish Government has shown by its deeds that it is very supportive of the living wage, and we have tried to go as far as we can with the powers that we currently have to ensure that workers in Scotland get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

With regard to procurement, it is important for me to reply to the points that have been raised in the debate. I appreciate that I am going a wee bit beyond time, Presiding Officer, but I have taken some interventions.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : 15 January 2015
Annabelle Ewing

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

It is important that we recognise the key problem, which is that this Parliament does not have power over pay. That power is still held in Westminster, which is a position that the Westminster unionist parties wish to maintain.

Of course, the alternative would have been to ensure that we in Scotland could get power over pay, but, again, the Westminster unionist parties did not seek that power during the Smith commission process. Indeed, it appears that the Labour Party would rather have a Tory Government at Westminster than a Scottish Government here in Scotland in charge of pay for Scottish workers. As we look to the months ahead, with the Westminster election looming, the voters of Scotland will find that increasingly difficult to understand.

In addition to our work on statutory guidance for procurement, we will hold a summit with business leaders to see what further work we can do to ensure that the living wage becomes the norm for pay policy in Scotland. I referred to the fair work convention, which we will set up to look at workforce matters further to the publication of the report, “Working Together Review: Progressive Workplace Policies in Scotland”.

I had many other things to say today, Presiding Officer, including on the important issue of the pay gap and female employment, so I hope that there will be another opportunity at hand. I remind members that I am always happy to come to the chamber to speak about the important issues of fair work, fair pay and gender equality in the workplace.

I thank John Mason for bringing this important debate to the chamber today. The way forward is to ensure that we in Scotland have the pay and employment powers that are necessary to tackle inequality in our country. At present, we operate with our hands tied behind our back. As I said, the voters of Scotland will, in the months ahead, give some thought to where they wish those powers to lie.

13:04 Meeting suspended.  14:30 On resuming—  

Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : 17 December 2014
The Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment (Annabelle Ewing)

Will the member give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : 17 December 2014
Annabelle Ewing

Is it not the case that student support is currently at £104 million, which is much in excess of what it was in 2006-07, when the Scottish National Party took office from Labour?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : 17 December 2014
The Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment (Annabelle Ewing)

I am pleased that we have been able to set out our implementation plans and refreshed strategy that will support our young people better for employment. As members have heard, we have a positive vision for Scotland’s young people and for our schools, colleges and employers, as well as for teachers and all the others who work with Scotland’s young people every day. It is a seven-year national programme on which we will report our progress annually so that we can all keep track of how the Scottish Government is doing against its ambitions. Our commitment to young people is clear.

We have heard about the important issue of narrowing the attainment gap in schools. Although that is, in the first place, a matter for the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, I note that the First Minister has taken a keen interest in the subject and regards it as a priority for the Scottish Government. Initiatives are already under way and others are planned, including the appointment of an attainment adviser for each local authority and the read, write, count campaign on literacy and numeracy, which is aimed at primary 1 to 3.

We have heard about the ambitious target to reduce youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021. Mr Findlay accused the Government of not being ambitious enough in its targets, but in fact—as he will know from having read the Wood commission recommendations closely—we have taken our lead from Sir Ian and his commission on that. Our target will put us in the top five nations in Europe. I suggest that, by any measure, we do not lack ambition for our young people—far to the contrary.

I turn to our ambitious target to increase the number of modern apprenticeships to 30,000 a year by 2020. The review shows that currently the majority of modern apprenticeships—some 65 per cent—are at level 3 or above. A Skills Development Scotland survey showed that 92 per cent of modern apprenticeship completers have been in work for six months or more, which Stewart Maxwell referred to, and that 79 per cent are in full-time work. We are working with Skills Development Scotland to develop long-term measures, as was identified in the Audit Scotland report “Modern apprenticeships”. I hope that Mr Findlay will acknowledge that work.

On Mr Chisholm’s point about contribution rates, that is of course an operational matter for Skills Development Scotland, although I understand from the Scottish Training Federation’s briefing to members for the debate that it is engaging “robustly”, as it describes it, with SDS on the matter. We look forward to hearing more on those discussions.

As the cabinet secretary said in her opening remarks, we have the ability to build on the important initiatives that have been taken in the sector, the strong regional college system, the undeniable success of Scotland’s modern apprenticeships programme and, of course, curriculum for excellence. Those provide us with a long-term plan.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Annabelle Ewing
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11565: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11294: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11292: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11291: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11187: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10942: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10709: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10694: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 30/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10672: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10307.1: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
This Member currently holds a ministerial post. First Minister and Ministers cannot ask the Government questions which is why no recent questions are displaying here. Please use the full search to find details of previous questions by this Member.
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03709: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22948: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22797: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00804: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03545: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03477: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03417: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02203: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03356: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03259: Annabelle Ewing, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/05/2014 Show Full Question >>

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