As Scotland’s leading trade union body, the STUC won’t duck a fight with employers, ministers or governments when it comes to ensuring safety at work.

When discussing health and safety in the workplace, there is sometimes an inclination from members of the public to roll their eyes; to assume that keeping workers safe in their work is some form of nanny state diktat that doesn’t matter.

It does. It matters. Whether you’re working with machinery at the forefront of heavy industry, on the tools as an apprentice on a building site, in the hospitality trade grafting in increasingly sweltering conditions or, like more of us, you’re now work between office and home, we all must ensure we are protected during our work.

The facts speak for themselves: if we don’t take our responsibilities to wellbeing seriously, it can have tragic consequences. Information revealed by the STUC show that workers dying as a result of industrial harm - those who have died as a result of work - has reached its highest levels in Scotland since 2019. The data shows that 21 people, almost doubling from the 11 total in 2019, haven’t made it home at the end of their shift. This is the tip of the iceberg when non-fatal but life-altering injury and disease is included.

Scottish Hazards, the national charity for safety at work, believes this is a gross underestimate and that the number is far higher when encompassing road traffic accidents connected to work, occupational disease and workplace-related suicides.

It’s true that health and safety legislation has come a long way and, thanks to our trade union movement, there are protections in place that did not exist a few generations ago. But we know employers and yes, governments – particularly the Scottish Government – can go further.

Health and Safety is reserved to Westminster. It shouldn’t be, nor should employment and equalities legislation. The Tories have systematically weakened workers’ protections. They have also embarked on a pilgrimage to undermine Scottish Parliament sovereignty. Still, even they may have trouble interfering in the power, more recently transferred to Scotland, to compensate those suffering injury at work.

That’s why we’re supportive of Mark Griffin MSP and his proposed Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill. The bill, which launched today, seeks to use these new social security powers to establish an independent council with permanent, independent trade union representation. The council would have powers to research workplace injury and diseases and recommend to government it pays specific welfare benefits to those injured as a result of workplace incidents.

In other words, we can finally properly compensate our workers who have suffered life-altering diseases or injuries in service to their work. The possibilities, especially in the context of long-covid, are encouraging; workers can have a real voice, backed up by our movement, in seeking recompense from an industrial injury and potentially holding employers to account for their injuries.

This goes to the heart of our devolution process: we should be making the Scottish Parliament a beacon of progress; an institution that has workplace rights, fairness and safety at its core.

In the 1970s, the late, great, miners’ leader Mick McGahey called for the creation of the Scottish Parliament as a “workers’ parliament”. Even those who disagree must surely accept that protecting our workers is part of its mission. If the raison d’etre of every single MSP isn’t the desire to make life better for every single constituent, they should seek a new occupation with great haste. If they’re serious about improving the life chances of workers, they can start by ensuring Mark Griffin’s bill sees the light of day, giving workers a fighting chance of fairness.

This is about compassion. This is about justice. This is about fairness. And, for all of its faults, we’d rather trust our Scottish Parliament than Westminster to deliver those.

Roz Foyer is General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.