ITV debate: Audience laugh at Corbyn's four-day week proposal
The Scottish Conservatives have warned the SNP’s plan could blow a huge £2.5billion hole in Scotland’s already vulnerable economy. Last month at its annual conference, 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”. But employment law is still controlled by Westminster, meaning any policy aimed at reducing working hours could only be introduced if the SNP is successful in a second referendum on Scottish independence.
If the SNP press ahead with the plan, it would mirror a pledge made by the Labour Party in their manifesto for last December’s general election, with then-leader Jeremy Corbyn promising to cut the full-time weekly work to 32 hours within a decade and without worker salaries being reduced.
However, that proposal was also torn apart, with critics warning it would “tank” the economy, “cripple” firms and cost more than £10billion each year.
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, had warned Labour’s plans would “cripple” six million businesses, driving them “out of business with economically illiterate schemes dreamed up in the student union”.
John Macdonald, Head of Government Affairs at the Adam Smith Institute think tank, lashed out at the proposal from Ms Sturgeon’s party, and told Express.co.uk: “Pilfering failed Corbynite proposals looks like a desperate attempt to distract from the SNPs own policy failures and crumbling internal unity.
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“Given that Scotland would have to gain independence to implement such a policy, paying off that £2.5bn would fall to the Scottish taxpayer.
“If the SNP were honest about the true cost of an independent Scotland and a four-day week, they would likely be much less popular.
“The idea of working less for the same pay sounds great but will be much less appealing after being battered by the inevitable tax rises that follow.”
He added: “An independent Scotland would also need to assert itself as internationally competitive to retain and attract investment. Requiring all employees to work less than anywhere else in the world would hardly boost confidence.
“Suggesting an independent Scotland would force people to work less in the aftermath of the pandemic is completely absurd.
“The trend towards flexible working has certainly been accelerated, but this should be left to private companies to explore, not forced onto the Scottish taxpayer.
“People, particularly those on lower incomes will want to have the option of working more for more pay, especially if they have lost out this year.”
The four-day working week proposal from the SNP has also sparked a furious reaction from the Scottish Conservatives, who have raged it would cost the public sector £2.5billion alone and would pile huge costs onto the likes of under-pressure services such as the NHS, schools, police, fire and prisons.
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The Tories claim this 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.
“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.”
But the SNP has hit back at the criticism from the Scottish Tories, with MSP George Adam claiming the idea of a four-day working week is gaining in popularity.
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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