Labour vows more support for women

Labour has pledged to offer more support to women as the political fight for their votes in the referendum steps up a gear.

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Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran
Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran

Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran set out five promises, including more free childcare and better pay.

It follows SNP pledges to ensure families will be better off after independence, and moves to promote more women to senior posts in the Scottish Government's cabinet.

Ms Curran, speaking at a nursery in Greenock, Inverclyde, said: "During my lifetime, women's rights have been won because of, and not in spite of, being part of the UK. From equal pay legislation to tax credits and maternity pay, Labour has always delivered for women by pooling and sharing our resources, and no Government has dared to turn the clock back on these rights.

"But today, progress has stalled. While the Tories' cuts fall disproportionately on women, the SNP have failed to make any difference. They promise more after independence, but this SNP Government has cut 47,000 jobs in local government and removed £1 billion from anti-poverty programmes, hitting women the most.

"I know that the best future for Scottish women is inside the United Kingdom, where we can pool our resources and share the risk across 65 million people, and not just five. Being part of the UK means we can make these pledges today that will make a real difference to women across Scotland. Together we can deliver for women."

She promised Scottish Labour would introduce 25 hours of childcare a week for every three and four-year-old and 15 hours a week for all "vulnerable" two-year-olds.

So-called "make work pay" contracts would be brought in to promote the "living wage" of £7.65 an hour, with tax rebates for firms of up to £1,000 for every low paid worker who gets a pay rise.

Discrimination would be tackled to help mothers returning to work.

Companies would be told to publish the "pay gap" between men and women. Labour says there is a 5.8% difference in Scotland.

The party also wants half of public boards to be made up of women.

First Minister Alex Salmond told SNP activists at their party conference last weekend that he wants an independent Scotland to aspire to having women make up 40% of company boards.

Saying he will practice what he preaches, he promoted two ministers to the job of cabinet secretary, meaning four of 10 posts are occupied by women.

Children's Minister Aileen Campbell told the conference that parents with a youngster at nursery and another child in primary one could save £4,900 after a Yes vote, because of free school meals and SNP plans for more funded childcare.

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