Wednesday, 9 March 2016

SNP deny secret deal on Sunday trading

From the Daily Record today

SNP leaders have branded as “nonsense” a Tory claim the party were offered a seat on the Queen’s Privy Council in exchange for letting Sunday trading go ahead in England.

The 54 SNP MPs will vote against relaxing Sunday trading rules in the Commons today.

But Government sources claim backbenchers thwarted a move to put deputy leader Stewart Hosie on the council in a first act of defiance against the party leadership.

Treasury spokesman Hosie last night denied the SNP were offered a deal.

He said: “No, I’ve never heard that in my life. It’s absolute nonsense”.

But a senior Government source claimed that under a side deal brokered with Chancellor George Osborne, Dundee East MP Hosie was set to join SNP Commons leader Angus Robertson, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon on the Queen’s Privy Council.

Leaders of opposition parties and devolved governments are enrolled in the council, who get security briefings and information ahead of Commons statements.

SNP oppose the Sunday trading move because they fear it would have a knock-on effect on shop workers in Scotland, who earn a premium for working weekends.

A Tory source said: “It’s disappointing and hypocritical of the SNP to deny people the freedom to shop that is already available in Scotland.” 

In an offer to smooth the path of the fiscal framework talks, the SNP were also to be granted an extra seat on the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee. An extra MP would have given the party a controlling majority on the 10-member talking shop.

But rank-and-file SNP MPs last night insisted the party bosses maintain their original stance of opposing the relaxation of Sunday trading laws in England.

A vote on the issue was pulled last year when the SNP made it clear they would oppose it because of the knock-on effect on wages for shop workers in Scotland, who get paid a premium for working weekends.

The SNP had come under pressure from USDAW, the shopworkers union, the STUC and the churches in Scotland to maintain their opposition to Sunday trading.

Tory Ministers were prepared to bring in changes to the law to tackle SNP fears about the consequences for Scottish workers.

But a briefing sent to all SNP MPs by the STUC stating there could be no effective defence of Scottish workers’ weekend premiums was influential in the outcome of the nationalist group meeting last night.

Hosie said: “Protecting Scottish workers has been paramount to our decision to oppose the Government’s plans on Sunday trading.”

A Tory source said: “It’s disappointing and hypocritical of the SNP to deny people the freedom to shop that is already available in Scotland.”

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