As most of us are aware in the new post-referendum era, the issues upon which the Scottish Parliament can make law are restricted to those areas known as devolved matters. These social policy areas include education, health and local government, meaning that MSPs have the ability to make law that influences the lives of all of us in Scotland.
But there is no doubt that many of the most important issues remain reserved matters – said to be those with the greatest UK-wide or international impact – and which are locked within the legislative control of the Westminster Parliament and the MPs sitting there.
At Thompsons Scotland, the laws which matter most to us are those we see having the biggest effect upon our clients’ day-to-day lives. Of course, the vast majority of the people we represent are victims of workplace accidents, sufferers of occupational illness and disease, or people harmed by medical negligence and in trying to help them obtain compensation and justice, we have to advance their interests within the legal framework laid down by Parliament and applied by the Courts.
This means that most often our clients are relying on a variety of existing legal protections within the areas of employment, trade and industry, and consumer protection. But, at present, the power to change these laws or make new laws is reserved to the Westminster Parliament. Known collectively as Health and Safety law, these laws cannot be altered by the Scottish Parliament, and this will remain the case going forward even after the Smith Commission proposals are enacted, as expected.
What’s more, the Health and Safety Executive, which is the single government agency whose function is to protect people living and working in Scotland by investigating accidents and deaths, is led by the Westminster government. Over several years, the Health and Safety Executive has had to endure budgetary constraints imposed under austerity and we have seen the effect of this on its work, with fewer and fewer accidents investigated and delays in criminal cases for Health and Safety crimes being brought to Court.
This is why we are absolutely sure that the failure to devolve Health and Safety law to the Scottish Parliament is harmful to our clients and to all working people living in Scotland. As we have seen over the last five years, leaving the Health, Safety and Welfare of ordinary folk living and working in Scotland in the hands of a Conservative led Westminster government is not an option. Remember, this is a government which demonstrated it will put insurance company profits before people when it enacted section 69 to remove employers’ strict liability for workplace injuries caused by employers Health and Safety failures.
And what about when existing Health and Safety is found not to be fair, just or reasonable? Thompsons Scotland will campaign and lobby politicians to change the laws for the better, but this can be difficult in the Westminster political context because our voice, even when in chorus with our like-minded brothers and sisters, can be drowned out by the rabble of big business.
We want the power to campaign and fight for our clients, and for justice, in a forum that represents our clients and all people living and working in Scotland.
This is why in our Thompsons Scotland Election Manifesto for the General Election of 2015, we demand the complete devolution of Health and Safety law to the competence of the Scottish Parliament. Stand with us today.