Remember SNP’s flagship Business Pledge scheme? Don’t worry – Very few do.

This was the ‘Be A Perfect Employer’ wheeze launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the wake of the 2015 General Election.

It was designed to sign up Scots companies to a raft of virtue-signalling ambitions, covering pay, employment practices and gender, race and ethnic diversity.

To sign up to the pledge, a company had to commit to paying the living wage and to other criteria, ranging from not using zero hour contracts to paying bills promptly.

Many firms feared they would be obliged to sign up in order to qualify for Scottish government contracts.

But the great Business Pledge has failed to catch fire. 

As of early August this year, just 276 businesses had signed up to the Business Pledge – representing 0.2 per cent of the Scotland’s registered business base.

And the signatory businesses collectively accounted for only 59,120 Scottish jobs, or 2.4 per cent of the total.

It doesn’t mean, of course, that the huge numbers of firms that chose not to sign are run by blackguard bosses, operating slave-condition sweatshops and paying workers a pittance.

The vast majority of firms honour minimum wage requirements, operate by the rule of law and aspire to best practice – without the need to sign up to a hectoring Scottish government pledge.

Last week Scottish Labour called on Nationalist ministers to up their game and improve the scheme’s take-up. It found that just one company from the lower pay ‘accommodation and food services’ sector had signed up.

Nearly half (45%) of all signatory businesses operated in two broad sectors: ‘information and communication’ (22%) and ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ (23%).

In the overall economy, these sectors make up 5% and 19% of firms respectively. This may be linked to the fact that higher quality working conditions already exist in these sectors (e.g. better pay), rendering the pledge largely redundant.

Of all the criteria, ‘making progress on gender balance and diversity’ is at the bottom of the list, with only 35 per cent of companies signing up.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Richard Leonard said, “The Business Pledge is a laudable goal, but these figures show how ineffective the SNP Government has been in promoting it.

“A strong economy providing fair work and a living wage is something we support, but the SNP has only convinced 0.2 per cent of Scottish business to sign up to their flagship scheme, with only 2.4 per cent of Scottish jobs covered by it.”

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