Scotland politics

Alex Salmond says union 'intimidation' inquiry is about 'electoral advantage'

Protesters at Grangemouth
Image caption Unite says it will not co-operate with what it says is a politically-motivated inquiry

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has criticised the UK government over its inquiry into trade union tactics during the Grangemouth dispute.

The review, headed by Bruce Carr QC, will examine whether the law needs to be tightened up to prevent "intimidation" and "harassment".

Mr Salmond said the Scottish government had not been consulted on the review.

He said the UK government's interest was "almost entirely about seeking electoral advantage".

The review follows claims the Unite union sent a "mob" to the home of a refinery manager during the recent dispute, which almost led to the closure of the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth.

Unite said it would not co-operate with the inquiry as it was a "Tory stunt".

Industrial relations

The union has defended its use of so-called leverage tactics, where managers are directly targeted as part of a protest, and argued that bad employers should have "nowhere to hide".

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said such tactics had no place in industrial relations - but denied that the inquiry was politically-motivated.

The inquiry will make recommendations about the roles of ministers, bosses and workers in industrial relations.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the review would also examine the issue "in the round", including "irresponsible business practices" such as blacklisting of union members.

However, Scotland's first minister said he regretted the way the review was announced.

He said: "There are of course legitimate issues that should be addressed in relation to industrial relations and the operation of our key national infrastructure.

"However, to allow such an important matter to be presented as a political manoeuvre is foolish and irresponsible.

"There are also internal issues for the Labour Party to sort out, with regard to how they allowed an internal selection battle in Falkirk to spill over into industrial relations in Grangemouth, to the great detriment of the workforce and potentially the entire Scottish economy.

"However, these are properly matters for the Labour Party.

"The way UK ministers have approached this issue suggests that their interest is less about industrial relations and almost entirely about seeking electoral advantage."

He added that he would resist any attempt to "politicise" the role of Police Scotland.

Industrial relations lawyer Mr Carr is set to head a panel of three people, with employers and unions each represented. It will report to Mr Maude and Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The Grangemouth dispute began over the treatment of Unite union official Stephen Deans after allegations he was involved in attempting to rig the selection of a Labour candidate in Falkirk.

It escalated to the threat of strike action but despite this being dropped the operator Ineos shut down the plant and issued a "survival plan", which was rejected by union members.

Ineos then announced the closure of the petrochemical plant at the site with the loss of 800 jobs.

After crisis talks the union accepted the revised terms and conditions, allowing the plant to stay open.

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