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Hot topic: Scottish independence

On 18 September, Scotland will vote whether to remain part of the United Kingdom, or to go it alone as an independent country. What impact would a ‘Yes for independence’ vote have on employers in Scotland? Would it lead to greater freedom, or a potential talent drain?

HR magazine asked two business experts for their views. Here, Russell Brimelow, a partner at law firm Lewis Silkin, shares his views on how independence could impact on employment law.

"In the recent televised debate over the future of Scotland, Alex Salmond argued that voting ‘yes’ “tells the world that Scotland is an equal nation that carries itself with confidence and self-belief”. If Scotland does vote for independence, the self-belief that Salmond describes will likely see the country make several legal reforms.

Change will no doubt be in the offing when it comes to employment law. Although plenty depends upon which party is in power, the current Scottish government’s whitepaper provides an insight into what the future may hold for an independent Scotland.

Firstly, the country’s government has committed to ensuring that the national minimum wage rises in line with inflation. It has also backed the living wage campaign, but has not yet said it will make the wage a legal requirement.

When it comes to human rights, the Scottish government is proposing a written constitution setting out key principles, which could include the right to equality of opportunity. In addition, it intends to consult and potentially legislate on a target for female representation on company boards. The fostering of a collaborative approach between government, employer and employee associations has also been promised. Other possible changes include action on zero-hours contracts and changes to immigration policy.

The programme is clearly wide-ranging, but there is still the matter of the referendum as well as any ensuing election before we can know the future for Scottish employment.

Even as we await answers, employers should assess the diversity of their leadership team and consider how it could be improved. They could also review whether they pay the living wage. And if trade unions are to be given more of a voice, employers might want to reflect on the nature of their relationship with them."

Check back tomorrow for our second piece on this topic.