FIRMS receiving public sector contracts should be forced to pay the real living wage despite a claim that EU law prohibits it, the body representing Scotland’s charities has said.
The Scottish Government’s website states that it is “prevented by EU law from making the Living Wage mandatory”.
However, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said Scottish ministers should “just do it and see if anyone challenges it”.
John Downie, SCVO, director of public affairs said that while the SCVO is “totally opposed to Brexit there was no reason for the Scottish Government not to make firms doing public pay the ‘real living wage’.
In the last parliament, the SNP blocked proposals for a compulsory living wage for employees who carry out work for the Government but are employed in the private sector.
Under the existing law there is a UK ‘national living wage’ of £7.50 per hour for over 25s set by Westminster. However, there is also a ‘real living wage’ of £8.45 – a voluntary benchmark – set at a rate based on the cost of living.
The Scottish Government has agreed to pay it to its employees, but companies doing contracted work for the state are not obliged to.
But the SCVO said that ministers should revisit proposals to compel firms in receipt of public sector contracts to pay the ‘real living wage’.
Downie said: “We’re confident the Scottish Government could extend the living wage within EU law.
“But the Scottish Government should just do it and never mind what the rules are because we’re not going to be within those EU rules for much longer. They should just introduce it and see if anybody challenges it.”
Downie’s call represents the first major challenge to the Scottish Government to extend the living wage since 2014 when the proposal from Labour was blocked.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay confirmed he would reintroduce the proposal at Holyrood.
He said: “The SNP hid behind the EU which they claimed prevented such action – now there is nowhere to hide.”
In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government cannot ignore or break the law. We are still part of the EU and must continue to comply with the law as it stands.”