In response to Programme for Government Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said:
“It is welcome that the Scottish Government has announced a review of business rates in the next period. The STUC has long been concerned that public investment has been put into business subsidies that are expensive and poorly targeted, and which do little to support economic growth in communities. The announced review is positive but must take a broad view of business support. It must look wider than simply rates relief and consider how businesses can be supported through the development of infrastructure, and by key public institutions like Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, and Local Authorities. We must move away from an approach which sees business rates relief as the beginning and the end of our support for business. We desperately need a proper strategy that supports communities and tackles the growing crisis on our high streets.
“The role of the Scottish National Investment Bank is important in this respect, but will require strong governance with a clear role for civic society, trade unions, and communities to ensure the success of this institution. The fair work requirements for public investment are welcome but long overdue. Without a strong focus on workplace voice they may only make a limited contribution towards improving outcomes for workers and communities.
“The STUC is pleased to see the focus on skills, and welcomes the approach that brings together trade unions and industry on this issue. Changes in the labour market are well documented. Technological change is becoming an increasing feature of workplaces across Scotland and the need for a renewed focus on lifelong learning is clear. Workers need secure jobs that are well designed and allow them to use their skills to the full. Unions have a key role to play in developing responses to technological change that support fair work objectives, allow businesses to flourish, and contribute to inclusive growth in Scotland.
“Announcements for additional funding to tackle food poverty, genital mutilation, and domestic abuse are also welcome. We support the increase in funding for mental health services. Bad employment practice is a major cause of poor mental health. We look forward to working with government and employers to ensure that the working environment reduces, rather than exacerbates, mental health problems.
“Ultimately with Brexit on the horizon and with potentially difficult economic times ahead, a strong focus on supporting businesses in local communities, with a clear emphasis on fair work, raising living standards, and supporting the foundational economy, is key to securing positive outcomes in the coming year and beyond.“