Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has described Westminster’s move to block the gender bill as “a full-frontal attack” on the Scottish parliament.
In a tweet posted in response to Alister Jack’s Section 35 announcement, the first minister said: “This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters.
“The Scottish government will defend the legislation and stand up for Scotland’s parliament.
“If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be first of many.”
Agency staff and volunteers could be used to cover classes if teachers go on strike, with schools expected to remain open where possible and the most vulnerable pupils given priority.
The Department for Education (DfE) has issued updated guidance for schools after members in the National Education Union (NEU) voted in favour of walkouts in a dispute over pay.
The guidance calls on headteachers to “take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible”, PA reported.
While the decision to open, restrict attendance or close academy schools lies with the academy trust, the DfE said it is usually delegated to the principal, and the decision for maintained schools rests with the headteacher.
The latest guidance stated:
It is best practice for headteachers to consult governors, parents and the local authority, academy trust or diocesan representative (where appropriate) before deciding whether to close.
Headteachers are entitled to ask staff whether they intend to strike, the DfE added.
The department stated that a repeal of a regulation in July – under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 – means employers are now able to “engage with agency staff to replace the work of those taking official strike action”.
Rishi Sunak’s new anti-strike laws would prevent certain job-holders from ever being able to take industrial action, Labour’s deputy leader said during fiery exchanges in the House of Commons.
Angela Rayner promised on Monday that Labour would repeal the government’s anti-strikes bill, saying it was one of the most “indefensible and foolish pieces of legislation to come before this house in modern times”.
She said that enforcing minimum service levels would mean some roles – like railway signal operators – would never be able to withdraw their labour.
But the business secretary, Grant Shapps, struck a combative tone in the exchanges, referring to the union funding for Labour MPs who intervened in the debate and said the opposition were putting lives at risk by opposing minimum service levels.
The new law would apply across England, Scotland and Wales and would mandate minimum service levels for critical industries even on strike days, meaning some workers must stay on duty in industries like health, transport, fire service, border force, nuclear and education.
The first Commons vote on the bill came as Shapps was sharply criticised by the legislation watchdog, the regulatory policy committee, which said he had failed to set out an impact assessment.
In the Commons, the Labour deputy leader, Angela Rayner, would not be drawn on the specifics of what Labour would offer unions threatening to strike, insisting her party would have solved them through negotiation.
Challenged by Conservative MPs to say what level of pay Labour believes would be appropriate, the deputy Labour leader said:
Whilst I used to be a trade union official, and I’m a member of a trade union, I don’t actually negotiate on behalf of the trade union.
What I would do is sit round the table and resolve this dispute with the trade union. That would be better than what the Conservatives have done.
The children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, said she was left “disappointed” by the teachers’ ballot results and “the implications this will have on children’s education”.
In a statement issued on Monday night, she said:
I know the decision to strike will not have been taken lightly for any teacher, and the vote has been far from unanimous – but it comes in the wake of huge disruption from the pandemic and will add to the challenges already faced by so many pupils who are catching up on lost learning.
I urge those choosing to take industrial action to take all possible steps to minimise the impact on children and families, by working to keep schools open for as many children as possible and with priority given to vulnerable pupils and those with SEND.
I am grateful to all those teachers and support staff who continue to prioritise their pupils’ wellbeing and I want to see an end to the dispute as soon as possible.
The Scottish social justice secretary, Shona Robison, has described the UK government’s decision to make an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act as an “outrageous decision”.
The use of section 35 of the Scotland Act to stop the GRR bill from proceeding to royal assent is an outrageous decision. This is a procedure that has never been used under nearly 25 years of devolution and is contrary to a bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the Scottish parliament by members of all parties.
This is a dark day for trans rights and a dark day for democracy in the UK.
As the first minister said, this is a political decision that is more in keeping with UK government’s contempt for devolution and the Scottish parliament.
It comes as Scottish Conservative shadow equalities spokesperson, Rachael Hamilton, defended the UK government’s move.
Sadly, Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to rush through flawed legislation at breakneck speed left the UK government with little option but to make a section 35 order.
As the secretary of state for Scotland makes clear, this was not a decision he wanted to take but, given that the GRR bill impinges on the operation of UK-wide equalities legislation, he was compelled to intervene.
In their desperation to force this legislation through Holyrood before Christmas, the Scottish government ignored the warnings that the bill would have implications beyond Scotland’s borders.
The UK government has been accused of using the “nuclear option” after Westminster stepped in to block Holyrood legislation aimed at simplifying the gender recognition process in Scotland.
Nancy Kelley, the chief executive of Stonewall, a leading transgender rights charity in the UK, accused the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, of using trans people’s lives as “a political football”.
In a statement after the UK government’s announcement, Kelley said:
This is the nuclear option.
It is the only time that section 35 of the Scotland Act has been used since 1998, in an unprecedented move which significantly undermines the devolution settlement and will unlock constitutional and diplomatic strife.
Meanwhile, Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans, said:
The bill as passed would introduce a simpler and fairer way for trans men and women to be legally recognised as who they truly are, allowing them to live with the dignity we all deserve.
It was passed by the Scottish parliament by 86 votes to 39, with the overwhelming support of the SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems. That followed years of consultation, and lengthy parliamentary consideration and debate.
The bill covers matters that are devolved to the Scottish parliament, and its consequences were considered by MSPs in great detail.
The deputy Labour leader, Angela Rayner, said she regretted the “tone” of the business secretary.
To suggest or imply in any way that members of this House do not care about their constituents and put their constituents first, and that members of our vital public services that got us through the pandemic, in some way, do not take the safety of the people who they look after seriously and walk away, I think the secretary of state should reflect on his comments today.
I cannot recall a measure that is at once so irrational and so insulting. Not only is it a vindictive assault on the basic freedoms of British working people, but this legislation is as empty of detail as it is full of holes.
So, we will oppose the sacking of nurses bill and not just nurses, but also many of the key workers who we clapped and who kept our services going in the face of the pandemic, and we will vote against it tonight and the next Labour government will repeal it.
The business secretary, Grant Shapps, said life would be made “harder for every single family” in the country if the government agreed to “inflation-busting” pay demands.
Speaking as MPs debated the strikes bill, DUP MP Jim Shannon said he believed in the “fundamental right” of workers to withdraw their labour, before adding: “Does government really believe that withdrawing the right of a worker to withdraw their labour is what they’re about?”
Shapps, in his reply, said:
I always think that people think very carefully about this and I think they’re right to do so. We’re operating within the context of a crisis in global growth.
He then raised Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine, adding:
Putin invaded Ukraine, what members opposite don’t seem to realise is what then happened to energy prices caused a crisis which has put up inflation throughout the western world.
Those prices going up throughout the rest of the world, and here included, have also pushed up wage claims. But I don’t think we should get into a 1970s spiral where we end up with higher wage claims, higher wage settlements, higher wage claims and inflation continuing forever – that is a cycle that we must break.
Clearly, if we’re to meet all the inflation-busting demands of the unions that wouldn’t just make life harder for some, it’d make life harder for every single family in this country, and that is why we cannot do that.
He added that there had been a “flare-up in strikes which are putting people’s lives and livelihoods at risk, and this government, for one, isn’t going to stand by and watch that happen”.
Talks will continue this week between the rail industry and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) amid renewed optimism that a deal can be reached without further strikes.
However, the drivers’ union Aslef was set to reject an initial offer from train operators, meaning a full resolution to the long-running pay dispute on the railway is likely to remain some time away.
Network Rail – responsible for track, signalling and other infrastructure in Great Britain – and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators, were set to resume separate negotiations in London with the RMT leadership on Tuesday morning.
Sources close to the dispute said the RMT now believes it can reach an agreement without taking further action, after a four-week period of strikes and other industrial action either side of Christmas.
However, the union said it was still awaiting an improved offer in writing from Network Rail and the RDG – something it regards as a prerequisite after a clause inserted at the last minute scuppered a prospective deal with train operators in December.
Rishi Sunak has decided to block legislation passed by the Scottish parliament making it easier for transgender people to self-identify using a constitutional order under the Scotland Act for the first time.
The secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, announced that he would use provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 to halt the gender recognition bill after a review by UK government lawyers.
It comes after ministers met on Monday to consider how to approach the legislation, which would make it easier for transgender people to obtain official gender recognition certificates, including by reducing waiting times, removing the need for a medical diagnosis and bringing the minimum age down to 16 from 18.