In recent weeks we’ve all seen and praised the work of our emergency services as they dealt with the challenges of terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and the awful fire and ensuing tragedy of Grenfell tower.
When events like these happen the sight of people running toward danger while the rest of us run the other way reminds us of the everyday bravery and courage not just of our emergency services, but all those public sector workers who step up to help in times of need.
That’s why what the Tories and their DUP allies did last week, finding a magic money tree to fund a dodgy deal to keep themselves in government but refusing to support fair pay for the emergency services, was one of the most shameful acts of the Tories in government – and that takes some doing.
To make matters worse, for a few hours the chaos and incompetence at the heart of the current UK government meant they told the media that they would review the pay cap on public sector workers only to cruelly rescind that commitment later in the day.
Under the Tories’ cuts agenda public services have been under increasing financial pressure. In Scotland we have had to balance the understandable desire for pay increases with being able to protect staff numbers and keep people in work. However, we’ve also taken extra steps to support those at the lowest end by paying the Living Wage and guaranteeing annual increases – that’s why our nurses are the best paid in the UK.
That pay deal was necessary for the times we were in, but now with rising inflation and new Tory cuts to social security for working households it’s become increasingly clear that households need a break from Tory austerity.
Delivering better pay would be much easier if the Tories and the DUP recognised the need to end austerity across the whole of the UK and backed a UK-wide pay rise, but that seems as likely as me winning Wimbledon. So we won’t wait for the Tories to see sense.
Already the Health Secretary has asked the organisations that represent NHS staff to work with her on a fair settlement for the future.
And last week Finance Secretary Derek Mackay confirmed our plans to end the 1 per cent public sector pay cap in Scotland. Over the coming months, ahead of our next budget, there will be a number of discussions with different unions, public sector workers and employers about how we find the right balance between ensuring people earn a fair wage and protecting employment and public services.
That won’t always be an easy conversation – unlike at Westminster we really don’t have a magic money tree, but no matter what the UK government does the SNP will deliver a new pay deal for Scotland’s public sector workers.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.