Page last updated at 12:10 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 13:10 UK

Labour hopefuls detail priorities

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson called for other groups of workers to be protected by the Act

Scottish Labour leadership contender Cathy Jamieson has called for shop staff to be given the same legal protection as emergency workers.

Unions backed her call for bar workers and other "frontline" staff to also be covered by the Emergency Workers Act.

Ms Jamieson is standing against ex-health minister Andy Kerr and former enterprise minister Iain Gray to become Labour's new leader at Holyrood.

On Tuesday, Mr Gray promised to focus on tackling illiteracy in Scotland.

He said real progress could be made in tackling the problem.

The Emergency Workers Act was brought in by the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, in the hope of curbing attacks on police, firefighters and others.

Andy Kerr, Cathy Jamieson and Iain Gray
Ms Jamieson is vying with Andy Kerr (left) and Iain Gray for the leadership

It created the offence of assaulting, hindering or obstructing someone providing an emergency service, and was later extended to cover GPs, community nurses and community midwives.

It carries a maximum sentence of nine months jail and a 5,000 and more serious incidents can still be prosecuted under common law.

But Ms Jamieson said the SNP should allow other groups of workers to be protected by the legislation as soon as possible.

"It will allow courts to send out a powerful signal that we will not tolerate anything which prevents people who work with the public from going about their jobs," she said.

"We have heard this year about staff who work in shops, pubs, and betting shops facing intimidation and violence.

"It's time that the law was tilted in their favour."

'Fall behind'

John Hannet, general secretary of the shopworkers' union Usdaw, said: "This is exactly the kind of thing we want to be hearing from our politicians.

"I appreciate her taking the time to meet with Usdaw members to learn more about their personal experiences."

Meanwhile, Mr Gray, a former teacher, said literacy specialists should be appointed to every school in the country.

He also called for volunteers to be recruited during the summer holidays to help children who are struggling with reading and writing.

"It's just not good enough for so many of our children to be held back by a lack of basic reading and writing skills," he said.

"We must provide support to teachers to better pinpoint those children that are struggling and to provide targeted support to ensure those children don't fall behind."


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