SNP’s £2.5BN four-day week plot condemned – ‘They don’t understand basic economics!’

ITV debate: Audience laugh at Corbyn's four-day week proposal

Last month at the SNP’s 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”. A resolution at the conference proposed: “Conference calls on the Scottish Government to undertake a review into how working practices should be adapted to meet the needs of the future economy, including the possibility of a four-day working week and more support for people to work from home or closer to home, with a view to reform when Scotland gains full control of employment rights.”

But Nicola Sturgeon’s party would only be able to enforce the plan if it becomes party policy if and when Scotland gains independence from the rest of the UK, as employment law in the country is currently controlled by Westminster.

The move has sparked a furious reaction from the Scottish Conservative Party, who have raged it would cost the public sector £2.5billion alone that would pile huge costs onto the likes of under-pressure services such as the NHS, schools, police, fire and prisons.

The Tories claim this would cost the NHS an extra £1.5bn, the education system would need an extra £430 million, police would require £431m, the fire service would need another £108m and the prison service would need an extra £43m – all before cuts to staff salaries or public services.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy Maurice Golden told “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.”

Mr Golden continued: “This is a cavalier approach from an SNP Government that doesn’t understand basic economics.

“The economic impact on Scotland would be massive because there would need to be cuts elsewhere or indeed cuts to frontline services.

“That is something we can’t cope with at the moment, and particularly the pressure on the NHS to reduce working practices at a time when we are attempting to roll out a vaccine.

“To the man or woman on the street, that would seem absolutely outrageous.”

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But the SNP has hit back at the criticism, 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.”

Speaking in favour of the motion that was voted on at the conference last month, SNP member Lee Rob insisted a 32-hour working week with no pay reductions would be the “ideal model”.

He said: “Everyone’s lives revolve around their jobs, and if we can promise that independence will make that arrangement just a little bit easier, then Yes starts to look like a more tantalising option on the ballot paper to those who otherwise might not have been persuaded.”

In the lead-up to last December’s UK general election, the Labour Party backed a four-day working week in their manifesto, with then-leader Jeremy Corbyn pledging to reduce the full-time weekly work to 32 hours within a decade without reducing worker salaries.

But the plan was 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”.

Tim Focas, director of financial services at the Westminster-based think tank Parliament Street, warned taxpayers would have been faced with numbers resembling “telephone numbers” to fund Labour’s plan.

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