Holyrood given ‘insufficient’ time to discuss UK work safety plan

THE Scottish Government has not had enough time to scrutinise Westminster proposals on workplace safety after the coronavirus lockdown, the Economy Secretary has said.

In a letter to the UK’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government had not had a chance to discuss the Safer Workplace Guidance with partners, and pushed for a “four-nations” approach to the advice.

The guidance, which is currently at the draft stage, will help businesses ensure the safety or staff and the general public when lockdown measures are eased.

Hyslop outlined seven different areas of concern in her letter, based on “limited discussions” with Scottish Government partners, whom she does not name, and testing of the guidance against the Scottish administration’s strategy for easing lockdown.

Hyslop said: “I would reiterate my view that there has been insufficient time for the Scottish Government to discuss these papers with our partners in Scotland in a meaningful way.”

Issues raised include the fairness of the guidance, measures to be put in place to ensure compliance, the financial security of workers and how the rules will work alongside differing legislation in the devolved administrations.

She urged the Business Secretary to ensure the guidance does not undermine current hygiene and social distancing measures in place to slow the spread of the virus, asking that there be “flexibility” across the devolved administrations as to when the advice was issued.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said she would deviate from UK-wide decisions on the lockdown measures if the spread of the virus deemed it necessary.

Hyslop wrote: “While it is important that we use this time to prepare guidance and plan for the restart, this needs to be planned carefully so that it does not undermine our critical public health messaging.

“Given that there may be different levels of community transmission across the devolved administrations in the future and we may have to make decisions at different times, we believe that flexibility is vital regarding when and how we seek to use the guidance and would ask that this is reflected within any communications.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns Boris Johnson not to force her to end lockdown

The Economy Secretary also raised concerns about the voluntary nature of the guidance, adding: “The language used within the guidance documents can help provide clarity on this matter.”

The input of trade unions, she added, would help to ensure the compliance with the guidance of workers.

She said: “If workers and trade unions trust the process behind the development of the guidance, they are more likely to have increased confidence about returning to their workplaces.”

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