Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield have added their voices to criticism of the SNP government following its refusal to support the Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill after the Stage 1 debate this week in the Scottish Parliament.
The Bill, introduced to the Scottish Parliament in 2019 by Scottish Labour’s Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker, sought to ensure suitable convictions would take place in the event of a workplace death, where recklessness or gross negligence of individuals, companies or organisations could be proven.
Currently, common law determines how culpable homicide applies to individuals, but there is no expectation that large businesses can be successfully pursued through criminal courts. The Bill would seek to rectify that issue.
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show the number of Scottish workplace deaths increased to 29 in 2018/19, with the highest number of deaths of the four UK nations over the last decade.
The Bill has received widespread support from trade unions, organisations and families who have been affected by the deaths of loved ones in the workplace.
Iain Gray MSP said:
“I supported this important Bill from the beginning so it’s very disappointing that the Scottish Government has not supported it, not least because many SNP ministers, including the First Minister, supported a similar bill when in opposition.
“Very little time was afforded at committee stage to hear from the families and trade unions who have long campaigned for this legislation. Those who have lost loved ones and suffered years pursuing justice deserve to have their voices heard. This is a missed opportunity to act and save lives in the future.”
Martin Whitfield said:
“There have been too many tragic deaths in workplace accidents in Scotland over the past decade, often because of failures by employers. The current laws are inadequate to ensure prosecution which is why this legislation is so important. The SNP’s failure to support the Bill has let down workers and bereaved families.
“If culpable homicide can be identified as the cause of the death in the workplace, it should not matter whether that is by the actions of an individual or by a small or large company – the treatment under the law should be equal.”