Boris Johnson slams ‘deranged’ SNP in independence row
The Scottish Conservatives have warned the plan could cost Scotland’s public sector £2.5billion alone each year and blow a massive hole in Scotland’s already vulnerable economy. During the annual SNP conference in November, party members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a four-day working week by a margin of 1,136 votes to 70, calling on the Scottish Government to launch a review of working practices in Scotland, including the “possibility of a four-day week”.
Scotland’s employment law continues to be controlled by England, meaning the SNP would only be able to introduce the plan if the party is successful in its pursuit of Scottish independence.
The country’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns that have been imposed.
The Scottish Conservatives have claimed a four-day working week would cost the NHS an extra £1.5billion, the education system would need an extra £430million, police would require £431million, the fire service would need another £108million and the prison service would need an extra £43million – all before cuts to staff salaries or public services.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy Maurice Golden told Express.co.uk: “This is an absolutely ludicrous plan that would cost Scotland £2.5billion.
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“At the height of the pandemic, how can we possibly be considering additional costs without the associated benefits is just absolutely mind-numbingly excruciating.
“It beggars belief that this is being actively considered by the SNP.
“I’m an economist and I can’t see this being a good idea at any time, but particularly at this time when we have an unheralded economic shock to the system.
“To try and change working practices so dramatically, to add vast costs onto our NHS, schools, police, fire or prison service, seems entirely out of keeping with rational economic thought.”
Last month, the Fraser of Allander Institute set out three scenarios in its latest Economic Commentary report.
But it warned that a pessimistic scenario, involving business closures, rising unemployment and a slow rollout of a coronavirus vaccine across the country, would mean Scotland’s economy may not return to pre-pandemic levels until September 2023.
Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group think tank, warned: “It is a policy that may immediately sound good to a lot of voters, more time off seems like a bonus.
“However, you can’t just remove 50+ working days from the year without consequence.
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“It’s a 20 percent cut in working days and will see a drop in productivity and earnings.
“Even if the Scottish Government were able to compel employers to pay workers the same amount for less work, the long term effects will be job losses and recession.
“If you reduce the amount of time people can work by 20 percent then you are almost certain to see a drop in productivity, which means lower growth figures and a shrinking of the value of the economy.
“This leads to fewer jobs and lower earnings.
He continued: “The Scottish economy is worth around £170billion a year, and a cost of £2.5billion only represents a drop of 1.5 percent.
“I would suggest cutting working hours by 20 percent would likely see a far greater cost to the Scottish economy.
“I struggle to see how the government would even be able to afford their current obligations, and substantially slashing working hours would further compound this deficit.
“Both the Scottish government but more importantly the Scottish people would end up poorer.”
But the SNP has hit back, with MSP George Adam claiming popularity of a four-day working week is building among the Scottish people.
He said: “Once again the Tories are well out of step with the views of Scottish voters – in July a poll found that 70 percent would back a four-day working week.
“The idea of a four-day week is one that is currently gaining momentum across the globe as we look to rebuild a different economy that is fit for the future.
“It is absolutely right that we discuss progressive policies like this as we look to improve the lives of people in Scotland and support our economic recovery in the coming years.
“The SNP won’t be taking any lectures on workers’ rights from the party who opposed the minimum wage and now want to scrap the 48-hour limit on a working week.”
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