This week a further three factories have been given closure notices by the UK Government – Stirling, Dundee and Clydebank. I agree with my colleague Jackie Baillie MSP who described the closures as a kick in the teeth to some of our most vulnerable workers.
I have written in some detail on my thoughts on the closure of Remploy’s Edinburgh factory and used the debate to expand on some of those arguments. You can view my speech at 1:25.40 into the above video.
I joined the Scottish Government in condemning the approach taken by the UK Government over Remploy. There has been an alarming lack of transparency over how the closures have been conducted and a disregard for the needs of the workers who have been affected.
I also highlighted my belief, contrary to what some Members on the SNP benches may say, that the Scottish Parliament already has sufficient powers at its disposal to take positive steps to make a positive impact on supported employment opportunities.
I pointed to the European procurement directive that allows contracts to be reserved for supported workplaces and of the need for a clear long-term strategy for the sector. The Scottish Government’s own policy calls for all public bodies to make use of these contracts but there is no monitoring and no urgency to encourage this to happen.
I believe that the debate provided a number of positive breakthroughs – the Scottish Government committed to bringing forward a scheme to help Remploy workers back into employment. The only Remploy staff who have so far been successful in gaining employment have done so as a result of the Welsh Assembly Government’s scheme.
I was also glad that Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing agreed with Labour’s calls for a permanent supported workplaces taskforce to establish and implement a strategy to grow the sector. The challenge now is to turn that good will into action.
We need a sustained approach that we can all sign up to politically, not just for the present Government’s term in office but in the future.