Scotland politics

Trade Union Bill 'is this generation's poll tax moment'

poll tax
Image caption The poll tax was introduced in Scotland in 1989

A union leader has warned that the UK government's shake up of strike legislation could prove to be as controversial in Scotland as the poll tax was for Margaret Thatcher's government.

Gary Smith, from the GMB union, has called on the Scottish government to do more to oppose the bill.

UK ministers intend to introduce new laws in the Trade Union Bill.

The Scottish government said it was opposed to the legislation.

The new trade union law would force unions to give employers 14 days' notice of action and could limit the amount of money unions have to mount campaigns.

Mr Smith said: "The Scottish government needs to say very clearly that policing is about priorities, and trying to crush dissent and attack trade unions is not a priority for the Scottish police.

"The Scottish government has a choice here - they are either on the side of the trade unionists or they are going to be supporting the jailing of trade unionists.

Image caption Anger over the poll tax saw outbreaks of unrest on the streets across the UK

"This is this generation's poll tax moment."

UK minister have argued the move is not "a declaration of war" on unions.

The community charge - more commonly known as the poll tax - was introduced in Scotland in 1989, a year before it was implemented in England and Wales.

It was a single flat-rate tax on every adult, set by the local authority.

Many people refused to pay it and the subsequent protests and riots contributed to Mrs Thatcher's downfall as prime minister.

After widespread civil unrest and protest, it was replaced by the council tax in 1993.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We have set out our clear and strong opposition to the proposals in the Trade Union Bill, which we regard as a totally unjustified attack on workers' rights.

"We will continue to oppose these plans in the strongest possible way, and we urge the UK government to look again at these deeply flawed proposals."

Meanwhile, Cosla - which represents 28 out of 32 Scottish councils - has said it stands "shoulder to shoulder" with trade unions in opposition to the UK government's proposed law.

The body's HR spokesman, councillor Billy Hendry, said: "Cosla leaders are highly concerned that these changes are being brought in with no evidence to back up the assertion that this would modernise the industrial relations between councils and their trade unions."

The announcement has been welcomed by the EIS teaching union and GMB.

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