“It is always disappointing to see any group of people having to resort to strike action”

Monday August 15th 2022


This View has been written by David Virgo, Leader of the Conservative Group on Midlothian Council, Councillor for Bonnyrigg and Lasswade.

It is always disappointing to see any group of people having to resort to strike action to force a response from politicians or management.

Disappointing because it indicates that those in power are either unwilling to compromise or fail to understand the circumstances that have resulted in strike action. Sadly, it is often both. It is equally frustrating that strikers will then be denigrated for causing public disruption. Unfortunately, this seems to be their only effective leverage.

In the last Council meeting, Conservatives urged caution around strike action taken by rail workers’, not to deny them their right to do so but to highlight the implications for similar action by all public sector workers.

If other public sector workers were to take a similar stance and seek significant pay increases it would exacerbate issues for Local Authorities across Scotland who are facing significant budget shortages.

Advice from the SNP government to the Council was written sympathetically in tone but fundamentally argued that they would encourage appropriate pay rises, but that the total wage bill should remain static.

Simple maths tells me that means government-endorsed job cuts.

It is worth pointing out that COSLA did push for a higher pay offer and the SNP government has offered up some mitigation for that. However, this is nowhere near enough to help our workforce to be paid at a meaningful level, a further example of the SNP’s dismissive attitude to Local Government.

It is also completely fair to point out that the Scottish Government and COSLA have completely underestimated the gravity of this current crisis. A derisory, and insulting pay offer will do little to alleviate the increase in inflation, and the resultant fuel, food and financial poverty.

I can’t help feeling though that the reality of the “squabbling” between the Government and COSLA is more likely to be a concerted effort to shield the SNP from as much bad press around this as possible.

Given that COSLA is led by the SNP, Scottish Conservatives were not the only party to wonder precisely how much COSLA was going to hold their governing party to account. The sad situation unfolding here is a sad indicator of how the system is broken by SNP politicians eager for power and prestige, who spend more time blaming everyone else while failing to equip to deal with crises of this magnitude.

Perhaps if the government had not wasted so much money on yet-to-be-delivered ferries, they would be able to provide local authorities with the financial support they so desperately need, particularly those like Midlothian whose growth is outstripping the funding the government provides. The government need to step up, show some respect to councils and their workforces who provide vital services and find the money to allow local authorities to make better pay offers without cutting either jobs or services.

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