SCOTLAND’S trade union movement is being urged to fight “outside the law” in order to scupper the looming Tory crackdown on union rights.

The super-union Unite has called for all 630,000 union members north of the border to resist the “malicious” Trade Union Bill now going through in its final stages at Westminster.

In a newly-published motion to the STUC’s annual congress, Unite urges “mass protests” against the bill once it is passed and “the maximum possible financial and industrial support to trade unionists who find themselves outside the law”.

Published on Friday, the motion is expected to receive overwhelming support at the Congress in April, setting unions on a collision course with the police, who must enforce the legislation.

The aggressive stance is also a potential problem for Labour, as Unite are the party's biggest donors, and the Tories will attack Labour if it does not condone law-breaking.

However Unite last night said there was “no doubt” it would defy what it saw as bad law.

The development comes as trade unionists in England and Wales prepare for “Heartunions Week”, a week of activities starting tomorrow to promote the positive work carried out by unions.

It coincides with the Trade Union Bill entering its detailed committee stage in the House of Lords, the best chance for its opponents to amend it.

The Bill is described by critics as the biggest attack on trade union rights in over 30 years.

It would make it far harder for public sector workers to take industrial action by making strikes illegal unless 40 per cent of all those eligible to vote - not just those voting - backed a strike.

'Facility time' in the public sector - the time officials spend on union duties - would be restricted and 'check off' - the automatic deduction of union dues from public sector wages - abolished.

It would overhaul how unions fund political parties, with members required to opt-in to the system instead of opting out, potentially costing Labour £8m a year.

And it would also impose tougher rules on picketing and legalise scab labour, allowing employers to hire agency staff during strikes.

Labour and LibDem peers are now cooperating in an effort to water down the legislation.

In its motion to the STUC Congress, Unite says the bill should be “emphatically” rejected as a “malicious attempt to constrain democratic industrial and political opposition to austerity.”

The campaign against it should also continue “beyond parliament…. with a focus on frustrating its operation” and making it “unworkable” though legal challenges, including under human rights law, and mobilising public opinion and union defiance.

Unite also says the Scottish Parliament should try to block the Bill becoming law if possible, although Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick recently ruled this was not an option.

Pat Rafferty, Scottish general secretary of Unite, which has 150,000 members north of the border, said: “Left unchecked the Tory anti-union bill represents the biggest attack on democracy, fairness and prosperity since the days when Thatcher put the power into the hands of the few and at the expense of the many.

“Should this bill become law… we should be prepared to enact a position of total non-compliance – if it is required. Be in no doubt that we will provide the maximum possible political, financial and industrial support to trade unionists who would find themselves outside the law.

“If that means mobilising hundreds to protect a handful of striking workers, we’ll do it. Be in no doubt that we’ll be prepared to defy these laws in order to defeat this anti-democratic assault.”

In another motion to the STUC Congress, the STUC’s general council also urges support for affiliates “who choose to defy undemocratic attempts to curb these rights, including ballot thresholds, the use of agency workers to break strikes and regressive picketing legislation”.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said last year that the trade union movement only existed because people had “resisted and broke bad laws” in the past.

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone, who defended the Bill in a recent Holyrood debate, warned unions against “militant” and “counter-productive” action and reminded unions that the last time they waged a political war, against the Thatcher government in the 1980s, they failed.

He also said a history of bad industrial relations in Scotland still made it more difficult to attract investment than in other parts of the UK.

He said: “A well-organised trade union should be able to continue to behave responsibly and within the law when these new laws come in.

“If there is to be what I would describe as militant action over this, then it simply highlights the reasons why laws governing the functions and actions of trade unions are necessary.

“The trade unions movement should be pursuing the interests of their members, not some greater political goal, because the country will inevitably suffer and so will union members.

“If they play by the rules, this [Bill] should change nothing. It simply requires them to do what good trade unions have been doing all along.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:  “Trade unions play an important role in the workplace, in the wider economy and civil society in reducing both inequality and building our economic success. 

“The Scottish Government believes the Trade Union Bill is bad for workers, bad for business and bad for Scotland.

"From its questionable purpose and competence to its lack of proper consultation, it is intent on destroying the effectiveness of Trade Unions and Scotland’s good industrial relations."