THE SNPs flagship employment programme is weak, limited and oversold, according to a leading Scottish thinktank.

The Jimmy Reid Foundation said the rhetoric behind Fair Work was not matched by action and it was “improbable” it would achieve its goal by the end of the parliament.

It also identified an “underlying falsehood” in the Government’s own assessment of the scheme, with ministers taking credit for changes driven by other factors in society.

It said trade union action had produced many more tangible improvements in workplaces than Fair Work, which was based on cajoling bosses to do the right thing.

The thinktank recommended the Government use its purchasing power to insist on union recognition by all employers getting public contracts to beef up the programme.

SNP ministers said in 2016 they wanted to make Scotland a “fair work” nation by 2025.

The Fair Work criteria are “appropriate channels for effective voice, such as trade union recognition; investment in workforce development; no inappropriate use of zero hours contracts;action to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace; and providing fair pay for workers, such paying the real Living Wage”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon Covid announcement: When is Nicola Sturgeon's update and how to watch live

The Government argues these have to be achieved largely through encouragement, as employment law is reserved to Westminister.

However in the new report for the Jimmy Reid Foundation, Gregor Gall, visiting professor of industrial relations at the University of Leeds, said the SNP was “unwilling” to use the full array of state levers it had as a devolved administration, citing the failure to set up an accreditation agency to verify whether employers offered ’fair work’ or not.

Instead of compulsion through procurement, those wishing to bid for public contracts were merely “expected” to pursue Fair Work, with no penalty if they fell short.

A vague definition of fair work also let employers off the hook.

Five years into the plan, less than a third of Scots workers are in unions, and around 15 per cent of the workforce are still not paid the independent living wage.

Professor Gall also accused SNP ministers of being “prepared to take the credit for outcomes” not necessarily driven by Fair Work, such as more firms paying the living wage, and workplace changes brought about by trade unions.

He said the policy was taking credit for developments that are, at best, not strongly or directly connected to it and, at worst, it has nothing to do with.”

Scotland also remained “relatively strike-prone”, despite Fair Work.

READ MORE: Neil Mackay: The five key truths we now know about Scotland and the Union

The report concluded the SNP had “used the state more to support capitalism than to reform or amend it. In employment matters, and not because of the absence of devolved powers, it is evident that the SNP Government believes it is sufficient to create a voluntary framework for labour and capital to operate within and then let them get on with it as per a classic ‘collective laissez faire’ perspective of minimal state intervention.

“Within this set-up, the place of labour will always be at least second best.”

The Government said: “Despite employment law being reserved to the UK Government, we are doing all we can to work in partnership with unions, workers and employers across all sectors of the economy to build fairer and more inclusive workplaces.

The statement of Fair Work Principles, which we published last year, will help employers and employees make decisions that are in everyone’s interest as we carefully reopen the economy.

“We continue to offer our sincere gratitude to workers and employers for reacting with such agility and dynamism to the challenges thrown up by the pandemic.”