The living wage will make East Lothian healthier, as well as wealthier.

That’s the message from Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP citing research that shows that paying the living wage would reduce the strain on NHS Lothian.

The county’s parliamentarians said that the money saved by the NHS in the Lothian area could be as much as £2.2 million after two years and £37.1 million after 20.

The research was conducted by the respected Scottish Public Health Observatory and calculated how much money the NHS could save based on “prevented hospitalisations”. The figure for Scotland as a whole is more than £250m over a 20 year period.

Mr Gray and Ms O’Donnell are long time campaigners for the living wage and have backed extending it to more low paid jobs in the tourism, retail and social care sectors. There are currently around 5000 people in East Lothian who are paid less than the living wage.

Scottish Labour plans to extend the living wage were blocked five times in 2014 by the SNP Scottish Government but this new research shows the case for the living wage to be overwhelming.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The evidence for delivering the living wage is now overwhelming. It makes moral sense, it makes business sense and now it is clear that it will save money for public services, like our NHS.

“Too many people in East Lothian need a pay rise. Too many families are one unexpected bill away from choosing between heating and eating. Meanwhile, our NHS is teetering on the verge of crisis, overstretched and underfunded.

“We can tackle both problems with the living wage. That is why I supported plans to extend it to more workers this year. I want to see it in jobs where it would really make a difference, like catering, retail and caring.

 “The SNP voted against the living wage five times in 2014. That is simply wrong when over 400,000 people in Scotland are paid less than the living wage, 5000 of them in East Lothian. It is time to get serious about better pay for workers in East Lothian and across Scotland.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“Hard working people in East Lothian are paying the price for Tory economic failure. The Tories say their economic plan is working, but local people are certainly not feeling the benefits.

“Real wages have fallen more in the last year than they did in the previous two years. The average wage for all employees has now fallen by more than £1600 a year under the current government.

“In fact, new figures show that the combination of low pay and stagnant salaries and the continuing cost-of-living crisis, means that working people are set to see the biggest fall in wages during one parliament in well over a century.

“Extending the living wage to more people would boost incomes and the economy, as well as improving people’s health and wellbeing. That is why it will be a priority for a Labour Government elected next May.”

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