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Wednesday 22nd
posted by Malcolm Burns in Britain

First Minister promises fairness and equality in the fight against austerity

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon turned her election charm offensive on the Scottish TUC with promises of fairness, equality and a fight against austerity yesterday in her speech at Congress in Ayr.

With her party riding high in the Scottish polls, she told delegates that the SNP would “never, never, never in a month of Sundays support a Tory government” in Westminster.

Instead she said SNP MPs elected in May would “use our influence to make sure the Tories are replaced, not by a Tory-lite Labour but something better, bolder and more radical.”

The First Minister praised the contribution of the STUC to the Mather Commission Working Together Review of industrial relations which reported last year.

She pledged that the Fair Work Convention, which the Scottish government has established to implement the Mather recommendations, “will act as champion for a fair approach to growth.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Inequality still shamefully scars the lives of too many people in this country and that affects all of us.

“That is why we deliberately put combating inequality at the heart of our economic strategy launched last month.”

She announced a “major drive for 50-50 by 2020” to achieve gender equality in public, private and third-sector boardrooms.

Ms Sturgeon also said in-work poverty is “one of the greatest of modern day scandals” and it was vital to make work pay.

“It should shame all of us that there are working people who rely on foodbanks,” she said.

“The Scottish government is a living wage employer and we will use procurement policy as best we can to ensure a living wage in all public sector contracts.”

Mary Alexander of Unite — one of the STUC members of the Mather Commission — welcomed Ms Sturgeon’s comments on economic and gender equality but criticised the Scottish government’s “failure to include the living wage as a criterion for public contracts” in the recent procurement reform law.

PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson praised the First Minister for her anti-austerity stance but pointed out that “as an employer, the Scottish government has in fact been implementing cuts and our members’ pay has been frozen for the last five years.”

NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said the speech was “refeshing — she dealt with most issues delegates want to hear about — fairness at work, employment rights, and investment in jobs, especially in the NHS.”