LORNA Slater has slammed “bizarre” behaviour after Unionist parties refused to back Shona Robison’s push to win employment powers for Holyrood.

The Social Justice Secretary wrote to party leaders asking them to join her bid for full devolution of powers over work and pay to boost pandemic recovery.

She wants to bring in a Real Living Wage of £9.50, outlaw firing and re-hiring on diminished terms, and stop employers from tying staff to inappropriate zero hour contracts. But all of those areas lie under Westminster control and Robison last week asked the Scottish Parliament’s other parties to sign her letter urging the UK Government to devolve those powers.

However, Labour accused her of picking a “predictable political fight”, Tory leader Douglas Ross said she should be “embarrassed” and Willie Rennie of the LibDems called her move “pathetically predictable”.

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Slater told The National: “The Scottish Greens will always push the Scottish Government to use all the powers at its disposal to build a fair and green recovery that creates jobs, tackles the climate emergency and leaves no one behind. But the truth is that many of the powers needed to deliver the scale of change that is so obviously necessary are still in the hands of the Tory government at Westminster.

“Powers to introduce the real living wage, end zero hours contracts and scrap punitive Tory trade union laws could transform the prospects of workers in Scotland. Scottish Labour opposed devolution of these powers during the Smith Commission process and it seems the party is sticking to the bizarre position that it would prefer these powers to remain with Boris Johnson’s government than come to Scotland.”

In her letter, Robison said she’d be writing to the UK Government after a Holyrood debate tomorrow, when MSPs will be asked to “agree that tackling child poverty and building a fairer more equal country should be a national mission for this government and parliament, and to agree the need for employment powers to be devolved to allow us to take further action to tackle poverty”.

She added: “Securing the full range of powers in relation to employment will enable the Scottish Parliament to fully implement policies that will best meet Scotland’s distinct needs.

“With employment powers reserved, the Scottish Government is limited in what action can be taken to make employers adopt fairer working practices that support workers to lead lives without poverty.

“Despite this, we have committed to a number of initiatives through our fair work agenda, including, the Scottish Business Pledge, promotion of the Living Wage, Workplace Equality Fund and supporting the Fair Work Convention to name but a few. The powers over employment law would enable us to create fairer workplaces, increase wages, reduce insecure work, and therefore shift the curve on poverty.”

However, Labour said: “Employment powers and poverty are incredibly serious issues which should not be ­bandied around for press ­purposes by cabinet ministers.

“Instead of focusing on a national recovery, we’re seeing the minister pick a predictable political fight.”

In his reply to Robison, Ross wrote: “You are responsible for introducing the 11 new benefit payments devolved by the UK Conservative Government through the 2016 Scotland Act.

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“The SNP Government promised to set up those ­benefits by 2021. You have ­broken that promise. It will be 2024 before those powers are used for the first time – approaching a decade after they were devolved.

“Can I remind you of another promise your party once made? You told the people of Scotland in 2014 if they voted Yes in the referendum, an independent Scotland could be estbalished in 18 months. If your record on devolved benefits is anything to go by, 18 years would have been more realistic.

“Thankfully that promise was never tested because Scotland overwhelmingly rejected your plans and voted No division, nationalism and bitter politics you promote.

“If I was in your privileged position to deliver real change here right now, I would be embarrassed to pen a letter requesting more responsibility when your party and government have proven completely incapable of introducing new powers for Scotland.

“Instead of demanding something else to distract from your failure, I suggest you at least try to use the powers you already have first.”

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And Rennie commented: “How pathetically ­predictable that the SNP use the issue of poverty to advance their constitutional arguments.”

An SNP source said: “The SNP has achieved remarkable success with the limited devolved powers it has, despite having a Westminster Tory government imposing toxic austerity measures – backed up by Labour and the LibDems – on us.

“It is clear that only with independence and the full powers it brings can Scotland build a strong, fair and progressive recovery from the pandemic.”