The big pitfall of writing my column on political developments is, in all honesty, this piece may be completely out of date by the time my words go to print. However, and I say this tentatively, I think we’re over the turbulence that’s engulfed Scottish politics for the past two weeks. Hopefully anyway.

First, a reflection on the now ex-First Minister. I’ve always maintained that it is far more prudent to be in the room negotiating for our members as opposed to peering in from the outside. It’s an approach that we, the STUC, have taken with previous First Ministers. Humza was no different. He was open to negotiation and didn’t shy away from the tough questions we posed him on taxation, Just Transition and increasing support for those suffering during the cost-of-living crisis.

This is an approach the STUC will continue to take with the new First Minister. We will engage. We will discuss. We will negotiate and find solutions. But, as John Swinney knows through experience and, to give him credit, through respect for our place in the industrial landscape of Scotland, we won’t hesitate to organise if workers across Scotland continue to be harmed.

Without question, Humza’s finest moments came during his support for the people of Palestine. Whilst global leaders either shamefully stayed silent or played the politics of false equivalence, he stood out. He was measured. He was nuanced. He was calm. Ultimately, he was straightforward in calling out the actions of the Israeli forces for what it is: genocide.

The Herald: Humza Yousaf has been replaced by John SwinneyHumza Yousaf has been replaced by John Swinney (Image: free)

And on a personal level, it was heartening to see the First Minister lead the STUC St Andrew’s Day anti-racism rally alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Readers should be in no doubt, as the First Minister recalled himself at the rally, that it’s been the STUC and trade unions, fighting alongside those who suffer the scourge of racism and Islamophobia, that act as true opposition to those who seek to spread hatred and bile in our communities.

That doesn’t mean we agree with everything Humza and his government did. Nor did we, the trade union movement, get everything we wanted. Far from it. You need look no further than the college workers across Scotland who were out on strike last week - protesting at underfunding of their sector from Scottish Government.

Take the council tax freeze. Popular, of course. Ask any household in Scotland if they would prefer not to pay more council tax during a brutal cost-of-living crisis and the answer will be an unsurprising ‘yes’. But be honest with voters. Ask households again whether they would rather pay the same rate of council tax but then have it lead to the closure of their local community centre, teacher cuts in their schools, bin collections being delayed or, god forbid, more pot holes. Their answer would be different.

The fact remains that, in whatever short time the former First Minister had in power, there could have been more done to ensure that our local authorities and our public services were properly funded.


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That task now falls to John Swinney. He’s made clear that he aims to focus economic growth in Scotland around the goal of reducing poverty.

But what does that look like? Politicians worship at the altar of ‘economic growth’ but never really get to grips with, nor set out their vision, on what that means in practice.

We know what it means. You won’t ever find a trade unionist arguing against better paid and more highly skilled jobs. You’ll find us on the picket lines demanding it.

We need the First Minister and his new deputy, both experienced ex-finance secretaries, to give us assurances that we build an economic model that is both centred and reinforced by a proper industrial strategy. A strategy that, first and foremost, prioritises the wellbeing and income of those in most need of help in our society.

It means implementing an economic model that isn’t about the hoarding of wealth by those at the top. Rather, wealth is shared through Scotland being a leading Fair Work nation, with secure conditions, decent terms and well-paid workers contributing to our tax base.

It means realising a proper Just Transition and ensuring that those workers within the oil, gas and fossil fuel industries and their communities reap the rewards of a fully coherent green jobs strategy.

Civic and anti-poverty organisations know what must be done too. With more on that to come later this week but, if the Scottish Government think that by changing leader they can now change course on progressive taxation, they’re deeply misguided.

Marginal but welcome changes to the tax bands in Scotland introduced this year sets the tone that our Parliament can be a force for good in the country if we raise, then redistribute, revenue for the public good.

The former First Minister started the ball rolling on that, and he does deserve credit. But that only goes so far. The task that falls before the new First Minister is to ensure Scotland uses its tax powers for the progressive good and reinvests the revenues into our public services.


Scotland is in desperate need of a government that is not only willing to use its full swathe of powers to create a fairer, more equal country but also a government that delivers on its promises we, the electorate, give them a mandate for.

Repeated failures on public ownership in offshore wind in addition to the scrapped 2030 climate targets, coupled with a not fit-for-purpose Bill on the proposed National Care Service speaks to an administration that might have the right ideas but a dearth of ability in how to deliver them.

The challenge, therefore, for John Swinney, is to not only set out a bold, radical vision for Scotland that prioritises the needs of working people but to show they’ve got the ability to deliver on those promises.

Workers across Scotland have had enough false dawns. They’ve had enough of nice ideas from a government that talks a good game but then can’t deliver. They need to see progressive change in their communities and a tangible, positive difference to their working lives. Otherwise, as we bounce into a general election followed soon thereafter by a Scottish Parliament election, change will come by way of the ballot box.

Roz Foyer is the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress