A LABOUR MSP facing a deselection threat for alleged disloyalty has scored a significant political win at Holyrood.

Daniel Johnson has received Scottish Government backing for his member's Bill giving shop workers extra protection from assault and abusive behaviour. 

The development means his Protection of Workers Bill should now pass its first key Holyrood vote later next week, putting it well on the road to becoming law.

The Bill will create a specific new offence for assaults, threats and abuse against retail workers, as well as protect workers who need to demand proof of age for restricted sales.  

Mr Johnson, the MSP for Edinburgh Southern, is currently facing an exit from Holyrood next May after rebelling against Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard earlier this month.

Mr Johnson and fellow MSPs James Kelly, Jenny Marra and Mark Griffin all publicly urged Mr Leonard to stand down as leader to avoid a “catastrophe” at next year’s election.

Mr Leonard refused and last weekend narrowly avoided a no confidence vote at the party’s ruling body to cling on.

While the mutiny was underway, he threatened the four “disgruntled” MSPs with retribution, saying they would “have to answer to party members". 

He said their action “frankly calls into question whether some of these people are the best people to stand for the Labour party in the elections next year”.

He also called their conduct "despicable" and said he wanted to see "new blood" elected in their place.

Despite Labour losing both its MEPs and six of its seven MPs last year, and polls suggesting more losses in May, Mr Leonard said his party was winning the “battle of ideas”.

That Mr Johnson’s idea has now borne fruit may therefore be bittersweet for him.

Mr Johnson said: “I’m delighted to see the Scottish Government have agreed to support my Bill at Stage One next week, adding their backing to this important issue along with Trade Unions and retail groups across the country. 

“Dialogue with ministers in recent weeks has been useful in identifying understanding on this important issue.” 

“Passing my bill into law will provide an important recognition of the key duty shopworkers have upholding the law and the issues they face doing so. 

“Most critically, the pandemic has seen people working in retail performing critical roles, supplying the basic essentials to all of us and keeping us safe as we do so. 

“This bill pays an important tribute to these efforts over the last six months.” 

He added: “It is clear from my consultation and work that there is clear public support for my Bill. I will continue to work with other political parties and key stakeholders to ensure it passes the remaining Parliamentary Stages and becomes law.” 

SNP community safety minister Ash Denham said the Government would support Mr Johnson’s proposals subject to amendments based on recent discussions.

She said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the key role that retail workers play in serving and sustaining Scotland’s communities. 

“This legislation will help emphasise the importance of law enforcement using their powers to protect retail workers.

“Subject to certain amendments being made to the Bill in Parliament, the Scottish Government will be supporting this legislation to improve understanding of the extent of offences against retail workers and to ensure a new specific offence can be used for assaults, threats and abuse committed against these workers.”

The Bill initially proposed criminalising the “hindering and obstructing” of retail workers, but this will now be removed.