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Summary

  1. MSPs scrutinise the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
  2. Opposition party leaders and MSPs quiz Nicola Sturgeon during first minister's questions
  3. The member's debate marks Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week
  4. Minister delivers statement on major infrastructure projects
  5. The Scottish government leads a debate entitled 'Building Greater Fairness in the Workplace'

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Louise Wilson

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live

Nicola Sturgeon
PA

That's all from Holyrood Live on Thursday 22 March 2018.

In first minister's questions Nicola Sturgeon insists she will speak up for human rights on her forthcoming trip to China.

Ms Sturgeon was responding to concerns about human rights abuses raised by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

Have a lovely weekend.

Decision time

chamber
bbc

MSPs back the Scottish government's motion from the fair work debate.

The Tory and Labour amendments were not agreed to.

Economy secretary calls for employment law to be devolved

Economy Secretary Keith Brown
bbc
Economy Secretary Keith Brown

Economy Secretary Keith Brown says one of the points of this debate was to seek consensus on fair work, which was blown out of the water by the Labour Party's 'overblown' amendment.

Mr Brown stresses the need to close the gender pay gap.

The cabinet secretary calls for employment law to be brought to this parliament.

He says all groups of workers deserve respect, including all the workers from the EU who must be valued.

The economy secretary says he hopes for conensus on fair work in the future.

'There remains a great deal to be done'

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson
BBC

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson says the expansion of the gig economy and casual work in recent years has made fair working practices more challenging.

We must not lose sight of the often hard-won rights of workers in the face of many of the positives of the modern economy, he says.

Since the recession a decade ago there has been a rise in employment but wage growth remains a problem across the UK, the Tory MSP states.

Mr Halcro Johnston emphasises the UK government's commitment to retain workers' rights currently legislated for in Brussels, noting the UK offers more than the minimum set by the EU in many areas.

Efforts have been made to promote fair work but "there remains a great deal to be done", the MSP concludes.

Background: Scottish government warns employers over snow days pay docking

Scottish government warns employers over snow days pay docking

Scottish ministers are considering action against employers for docking the wages of staff who could not make it to work because of the bad weather.

The public was advised not to travel during the worst of the snow last week.

Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said he had been contacted by people who were facing disciplinary action or potential docking of wages.

He told the BBC that was not acceptable and he would look at the legal position.

Read more here.

Labour MSP says precarious employment contracts must be brought to a halt

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill
bbc

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill says the imbalance in power between employers and employees has to be ironed out.

Ms McNeill says precarious employment contracts must be brought to a halt.

She says government contracts should make it clear agencies should not be used unless there is a clear case to do so.

The Labour MSP insists government contracts should demand the living wage, trade union representation and good terms and conditions.

Background: 'I was forced from my job for giving birth'

Mother and baby
Getty Images

The scale of maternity discrimination is being hidden because of the use of gagging orders when women who have lost their jobs settle out of court, experts have told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"My boss said if I'm not going back to work, then I'd have to pay back all the maternity payment."

"Emma" - not her real name - was working as a beautician when she became pregnant.

She did not realise at the time that her boss's request was against the law.

Around one in nine of more than 3,000 mothers questioned said they had been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant, or treated so badly they felt they had to leave their job,according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2015.

This is despite the Employment Rights Act and Equality Act protecting women from unfair dismissal because they are pregnant or on maternity leave.

Read more here.

Background: Disabled equality 'at risk' in Scotland

Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour has dedicated his speak to barriers to employment for disabled people.

Person using wheelchair
Getty Images

Twenty years of progress towards real equality for disabled people in Scotland could be at risk, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.

The commission warned that a "concentrated effort" needed to be made around housing, hate crime, mental health, employment and education.

But the Scottish government said the report failed to acknowledge its disability delivery plan.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it had highlighted several "significant inequalities" in Scotland as part of a UK-wide report into disabled life.

They included:

  • Disabled Scots are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people
  • On average, disabled people in Scotland earn £1.10 per hour less than non-disabled people
  • Disabled pupils have much lower attainment rates and are more likely to be permanently or temporarily excluded

Read more.

Background: Leonard: Labour owes Glasgow equal pay women an apology

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard
PA

The Scottish Labour leader has said women in Glasgow City Council are owed an apology for "too much resistance" to their equal pay claims when the local authority was under Labour control.

Richard Leonard said Labour settled many equal pay claims but there was "too much legal obstruction".

The party was in power in the city for decades before being ousted by the SNP last May.

He was speaking to the party's Women's Conference in Glasgow.

The council dropped its legal challenge in January with cross-party agreement.

Read more here.

Background: MSPs slam Westminster's Trade Union Bill in Holyrood debate

MSPs debated the Trade Union Bill despite it being a Westminster reserved matter
BBC
MSPs debated the Trade Union Bill despite it being a Westminster reserved matter

Back in January 2016, MSPs voiced dissent against the UK government's Trade Union Bill.

The matter was debated by the full parliament after a report condemning the Westminster bill was put together by the then devolution committee.

The SNP and Scottish Labour were both strongly opposed to the bill, and made efforts to have it blocked north of the border.

Members lined up to speak out against the legislation, which sought to tighten regulations on trade unions and make it more difficult to call strikes.

Read more.

Background: MP's bid to ban unpaid trial shifts fails

A number of speakers in this debate have mentioned the recent bid by SNP MP Stewart McDonald to legislate against unpaid trial shifts.

Waitress
Getty Images

A bid to ban unpaid trial shifts has failed despite concern that it hits the "lowest paid and lowest skilled" people.

SNP MP Stewart McDonald said it was often people who "don't know their rights and can't stand up for them" who are exploited.

The UK government talked out his members bill in the Commons, meaning it has no chance of becoming law.

The government said it did not think more regulations were needed.

But business minister Andrew Griffiths said he was "very keen" to work with Mr McDonald to address the issues.

Read more here.

Background: Scottish government unveils 'living wage nation' plans

Pound coins
Getty Images

Plans to make Scotland a "living wage nation" over the next three years have been put forward by the Scottish government.

Measures include a regionally focused accreditation scheme for employers to create the UK's "first living wage towns, cities and regions".

It is hoped at least 25,000 more people will benefit from the move.

There will also be a drive to persuade more organisations in low-paid sectors to join the scheme.

The Scottish government backs the "real living wage" of £8.75 an hour, as promoted by the Living Wage Foundation campaign group.

Read more here.

Background: Glasgow City Council to discuss equal pay with unions

Campaigners for equal pay
BBC

Glasgow City Council says "negotiation not litigation" will solve the dispute over equal pay for some women workers.

The council has agreed not to appeal against a court decision last year over the grading system and will now discuss a settlement with the unions.

The dispute centres on the way some jobs were graded several years ago.

It meant workers such as cleaners and care assistants may have been earning less than men in jobs deemed to be of equal value.

Unions welcomed the decision while the council leader said it drew a line under the actions of the previous administration.

Read more.

Background: Labour market strategy commitments

Labour market strategy front cover
Scottish government

Commitments in the labour market strategy include:

  • Creating a strategic labour market group to advise ministers on future developments
  • Up to £500,000 to support the work of the Fair Work Convention
  • Use of new powers to better align employability support in Scotland
  • £200,000 to support for the National Action Plan for Responsible Business
  • £110,000 for the Fit Work Project
  • £10,000 to sponsor of the Fair Work Employer of the Year award
  • The development of a Workplace Equality Fund
  • Continued investment in sustainable physical and digital infrastructure

Background: Minister's Amazon working conditions talks 'productive'

Amazon has been accused of 'intolerable' working conditions at its largest UK distribution centre in Dunfermline
bbc
Amazon has been accused of 'intolerable' working conditions at its largest UK distribution centre in Dunfermline

In 2016 we reported Scotland's economy secretary held "productive" talks with Amazon after claims of unacceptable working conditions at its Fife depot.

Keith Brown said the firm agreed to "consider" his request to pay a"living wage" of £8.45 an hour.

He said they would have another meeting in two or three months' time.

The minister had previously said he was concerned by reportsthat staff at the Dunfermline site could be sacked for being off sick.

Lib Dem MSP says Amazon would not be allowed to sign business pledge

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie
bbc
Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie says he is pleased that hundreds have signed up the Scottish Business Pledge.

However he says we don't know what changes the businesses have made.

Mr Rennie says Amazon would not be allowed to sign the pledge and says it would be good to know if they were going to change their practices to meet the fair work agenda.

Mr Rennie agrees with SNP MSP Tom Arthur that it was disgraceful for the private member's bill outlawing 'trial shifts' to be talked out at Westminster.

The proposed law from SNP MP Stewart Macdonald would end the practice of people being asked to work without pay and with no guarantee of a job.

Despite wide cross-party support for the bill and a public petition with over 140,000 signatures, it won’t be going ahead.

Scottish government urged to 'push at the boundaries' of what is legally possible

Green MSP Patrick Harvie
BBC

Green MSP Patrick Harvie scores the Scottish government 6/10 for its efforts on fair work, saying it's a "pass" but there is room for improvement.

He welcomes the Labour amendment and confirms his support for it, though adds he regrets its "hyperbolic" language.

Mr Harvie urges the Scottish government to "push at the boundaries" of what is legally possible on employment practices.

In particular, he says business support from the government must be contingent upon firms meeting minimum standards for employment.

'You cannae have a wee debate off camera'

Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame
bbc
Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame

Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame chastises the minister, saying, "you cannae have a wee debate off camera".

Here's the Labour amendment

Jackie Baillie's amendment
SP

Labour MSP calls for procurement review and accuses SNP of 'breathtaking hypocrisy'

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
Scottish Parliament

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says she supports the government's aspiration to ensure fairness in the workplace, but wishes it practiced what it preached.

Ms Baillie says workers on former Carillion contracts were on bogus self-employment contracts and had to pay £100 to recieve their wages.

These were Scottish government contracts, she says,.

"It's your money and you can dissemble all you like," accuses the Labour MSP.

She calls for a procurement review and accuses the SNP government of breathtaking hypocrisy.

The Labour MSP attacks the Tories over the Trade Union Act 2016.

Background: The Taylor review

The UK government published a review into working practices in the modern economy last summer.

Cleaner
Getty Images

The review, led by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of the Arts, has made seven key recommendations. They are:

  • Good work for all
  • Dependent contractors
  • National Living Wage
  • Cost of employment
  • Good corporate governance
  • Developing skills
  • A healthy workplace

Read our at-a-glance guide to the Taylor review here.

Scottish government must address 'hard economic realities' says Tory MSP

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart says there is broad consensus across the chamber on support for fair work but disagreements lie on how to deliver that.

He says the UK government has introduced many improvements to workers' rights, including the national living wage, an increase in public sector pay and lifting some people out of tax altogether.

The UK government has also announced the good work place and its intention to carry out 52 of the 53 recommendations from the Taylor review, the Tory MSP states.

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart
BBC
Tory MSP Dean Lockhart

Turning to the Scottish government, Mr Lockhart urges it to address "some of the hard economic realities" if it truly wants to deliver fairness in the workplace.

In particular, he highlights stagnating growth and the lowest disposable incomes in the UK, which he argues must be tackled.

What is the Fair Work Convention?

Fair Work Convention
Fair Work Convention

The framework of the Fair Work Convention sets out what it means by fair work, why it is important, who can play a part in making Scotland a world leading nation in fair work and how this might be achieved. It also acknowledges that, given the broader economic context, there are challenges along the way.

"Our vision is that, by 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society."

Here's the Tory amendment

Tory amendment
SP

'Fair work is at the heart of the business pledge'

Scottish Business Pledge
bbc
Scottish Business Pledge

Mr Hepburn says there are now 450 signataries to the Scottish Business Pledge.

The minister announces a short review of the business pledge over the summer.

"Fair work is at the heart of the business pledge and that will not change."

Inclusive growth must be underpinned by an inclusive labour market says minister

Employment Minister Jamie Hepburn
BBC
Employment Minister Jamie Hepburn

Employment Minister Jamie Hepburn welcomes the opportunity to open a debate on workplace fairness.

He says the Scottish government has chosen to prioritise inclusive growth in its economic strategy and adds this must be underpinned by an inclusive labour market.

The minister points to the Fair Work Convention as evidence of the Scottish government's commitment to this, which including encouraging firms to pay the real living wage.

Fair work practices help businesses deliver real success, Mr Hepburn states.

Background: Workplace equality focus of new labour market strategy

Jamie Hepburn at the Scottish Gas training academy
BBC

A plan which promises to put fairness "at the heart" of a drive to develop a skilled workplace was launched by the Scottish government in August 2016.

The labour market strategy was outlined by Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn.

He said improving workplace equality was key to boosting the economy and pledged £820,000 to tackle the issue.

Mr Hepburn launched the labour market strategy during a visit to the Scottish Gas training academy in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

Read more here.

Here's the motion for the workplace fairness debate

Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn
bbc
Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn

Here is Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn's motion, which he duly moves.

MSPs debate workplace fairness

Office workers
Getty Images

The Scottish government will now lead a debate on 'building greater fairness in the workplace'.

Lib Dem MSP says minister has added confusion around AWPR opening date

Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles
bbc
Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles

Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles says the cabinet secretary has added much confusion in his statement on the AWPR.

When is the AWPR opening, he asks.

Mr Brown says again he expects the AWPR to be open by late Autumn.

Green MSP raises Highland railways

Green MSP John Finnie
BBC

Green MSP John Finnie says the Highland mainline upgrade has "undoubtedly lost momentum".

We are rapidly moving to a system of four lanes of road and only one line of rail, he says, and seeks an update on the project.

Mr Brown says the Scottish government has been investing in rail across Scotland following decades of under-investment.

He will ask Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to contact the member with specifics on the Highland line.

Tory MSP asks about communication

Tory MSP Jamie Greene
BBC

Tory MSP Jamie Greene asks about communication between himself, ARL, Balfour Beatty and the project manager, given the cabinet secretary said he was "surprised" by the announcement.

Mr Brown says meetings have taken place and he said it caught people by surprise because ARL has recently said the completion date remain the same "quickly followed" by the indication of a delay.

Labour MSP raises issue of workers rights on AWPR project

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says there has not been a mention of workers rights on the AWPR, citing bullying and gang master activity.

Ms Baillie says her leader used FMQs to bring up AWPR umbrella companies and bogus self-employment and asks what action the cabinet secretary is taking to ensure that Scottish tax payers money is not used to exploit Scottish workers.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
bbc
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

Mr Brown says workers with the agencies chose to work through them.

The economy secretary says the Labour Party were instrumental in ensuring employment law remained reserved and with the Tories.

He says he would like control over employment law.

Tory MSP criticises 'yet another delay' to AWPR

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart
BBC

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart says the announcement of "yet another delay" will come as a disappointment to many in the north east.

He criticises the lack of clarity on the potential opening date and seeks a latest completion date the cabinet secretary can guarantee.

Mr Lockhart also asks whether opening refers to the route being fully operations.

Keith Brown argues spring 2018 was the first date given, not spring 2017 as Mr Lockhart claims.

He reiterates that while the contractor has predicted an opening date of summer, the Scottish government believes it will be late autumn instead.

Mr Brown says the roads opening will mean they are available for use, though snagging may have to take place.