Now I preface my comments by stating I support the strikers. The wage demands are legitimate given rising costs and inflation predates their claims. But it’s still never easy for any government and I’ve been involved in some sensitive discussions in my time.
The real difference is that Holyrood and to be fair Cardiff also are seeking to meet the claims as best they can within tightening budgets, whilst Westminster is seeking to demonise and make war with organised labour.
I’ve had some sympathy for the Scottish Government but more frustration at their repeated posturing that there’s no more money, only to magic a bit more out of the hat. Once or twice is understandable, especially when you play for time, seeking salvation from increased offers down south that would allow for Barnett consequentials. That’s simply annoying, especially when I know from union negotiators that otherwise they find Scottish ministers respectful, engaging and seeking to reach a solution.
But Westminster’s an entirely different entity. They have been bullish in the extreme. Posturing and confrontational even with what might be viewed as more moderate unions or those such as the nurses who have public sympathy. The current offers are frankly pathetic.
Worse than all that, it seems they’ve been doing their utmost to thwart settlements. There appears clear evidence, not just from the RMT but also train operators, that the Department for Transport has been putting its neb in, not to ensure resolution but to spike the wheels. That’s disgraceful.
Those claims I find credible, given the attempted demonisation of Mick Lynch, abetted by their media pals. As Thatcher set out to do the miners in, Sunak’s regime seem set to try and crush the RMT. Both are seen as the vanguard of the union movement. Destroy them and others will learn their place is their aim. All to make the workers pay the price for the financial elite’s folly and deliver their promised land of a low-wage economy.
Hence why the RMT struggle isn’t simply for their members but for us all in protecting public services and opposing the further impoverishment of our society.
Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian