THANKFULLY HEALTH & SAFETY WASN’T IN THE BASKET
As I listened to the analysis of the renegotiation deal that David Cameron claims to have secured from Europe in contrast to his own triumphant presentation of what he had achieved my mind was drawn to the political comedy “The Thick of It”.
I was thinking particularly of the first one hour special and the sub text about the fictitious Prime Minister’s apparent obsession with creating “a legacy” before departing office. Politicians often talk about a leader’s legacy and all too often, to me, it seems as if the mere fact of there being an apparent legacy is far more important than what the legacy actually is. As David Cameron undertakes his long farewell tour of Europe the spin of his legacy is that he significantly renegotiating Britain’s involvement in Europe and, in so doing, saved British businesses from euro-sceptics and fortified Britain’s position at the heart of the European Union. If this blog could carry an age rating I would resort to more colourful language which we often associate with The Thick of It. Instead I will simply point out that such a spin by the Prime Minister is complete and utter nonsense.
Other than one concession that Europe should never have given as a nod to the zealots and xenophobes within his party (in relation to welfare rights for immigrants) the “deal” was an empty and meaningless one.
For me, the most important thing however is that health and safety will remain fully in the hands of Europe. The Tories have already unleashed a tidal wave of aggressive anti-worker Acts of Parliament. With Europe continuing to have the right to impose health and safety Directives on the UK, this will serve as an important counterbalance. It should ultimately help turn the tide.
Thus, when we vote to stay in Europe, that will be the time to look at legal challenges to Section 69 of the Enterprise Act to the European Court of Justice.
In Scotland it will also be the time when we look to the Scottish Government to take a stand; to legislate to guarantee Scottish workers their protections under European Safety Directives; and to do so without any fear of a legislative competence challenge.
Health and safety may still (to my great regret) be reserved to Westminster but European Law is not. The Scottish Government must ensure that the Scottish people benefit from all of the protections that Europe provides and that includes issues of safety at work. If Westminster do not ensure those protections then the Scottish Parliament must. They are in fact legally obliged to do so.
When that happens won’t it be ironic that the real legacy that Cameron has left will be empowering the Scottish Parliament to effectively reverse Section 69 of the Enterprise Act and restore workers’ rights in Scotland?