Partnership for a Better Scotland
This briefing constitutes an initial UNISON Scotland reaction
to the partnership agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats
in the Scottish Parliament.
The overall direction of A Partnership for a Better Scotland
will be welcomed by UNISON Scotland. It confirms strong support
for public services backed up with significant additional resources.
A recognition of the vital role staff play in delivering those
services and partnership working with the trade unions to deliver
the government's objectives.
Particular issues of interest to UNISON Scotland are as follows:
Section 1: Growing Scotland's Economy
- Continues support for partnership with trade unions on enterprise
and life long learning.
- Confirms the 40% renewable energy target. Concern that this
target is unrealistic and could detract from the need to develop
clean coal technologies in Scotland's coal fired power stations
that provide essential base load generation. Strengthening the
electricity grid won't happen if Ofgem's transmission loss and
BETTA plans implemented.
- The commitment not to develop nuclear power stations "while
the waste management issues remain unresolved" is in line
with UNISON Scotland policy although it doesn't explain how
the generation gap will be bridged.
- Support for the construction industry should include DLO's.
- Focus on enterprise education should include employment rights
and the role of trade unions to ensure young people are fully
equipped for the world of work.
- Welcome if relatively modest commitment to 16% increase in
higher and further education budget by 2006. This sector has
particular funding problems. No top up tuition fees.
- Wary about more quangos in urban regeneration that detracts
from local democratic accountability.
- Ending bridge tolls on the Skye Bridge. Hope that this leads
to a wider recognition of the failings of PFI!
- Need clarification over the impact a "Strategic Transport
Authority" will have on local authority functions. Another
quango? Welcome extension of concessionary travel.
- Welcome support for extending water networks in rural areas
but need clarification on how this is to be funded.
Section2: Delivering Excellent Public Services
- Welcome support for best value approach to be based on comparisons
with the highest standards in "other public bodies".
- As expected a big emphasis on scrutiny, inspection and as
a last resort intervention. We will shortly publish our detailed
views on this. League tables are rejected as the wrong approach
- Several references to "changes where needed to structures
and boundaries". In particular LHCC and health boards "to
facilitate joint working with local authorities". This
is expanded in Section 4 to "eliminating inefficiencies
and reducing barriers to quality by selectively reviewing the
boundaries of public organisations that deliver services to
identify areas where the creation of coterminous boundaries
would facilitate their co-operative work".
- All the expected white paper health reforms appear to be included
plus some extra sweeteners including free eye and dental checks.
Plus agenda for change which has some particular Scottish issues
that need to be addressed. The Labour manifesto commitment to
a directly elected element on health boards appears to have
- Schools building programme. PFI not mentioned and we will
press for the level playing field recommended by Audit Scotland
and promised in the Liberal manifesto.
- Welcome commitment to increase support staff although unlike
teachers no precise numbers. Recognition that classroom assistants
must have access to development opportunities.
Section 3: Supporting Stronger, Safer Communities
- A national strategy for youth work needs further clarification
and watching as does the review of the children's hearing system.
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders may impact on children's hearings.
- As expected a strong "bash the Neds" theme. More
police "on operational duty" strengthens our case
for more civilianisation.
- Protection for "emergency workers" needs to be extended
to all public service workers.
- The unhelpful Labour manifesto commitment to establish a Correctional
Agency has been diluted to "publish proposals for a single
agency". Another quango taking powers from local democratic
accountability and a proposal that was not agreed through the
Labour Party policy forum process.
- Strong words of support for the voluntary sector and longer
- Welcome the extension of the neighbourhood warden scheme although
further consideration is needed on the health and safety and
conditions of service implications.
- Commitments to "act decisively" on racism and sectarianism
including racist attacks.
- Housing transfer will be "encouraged". We need to
ensure that the extension of prudential borrowing to housing
promised in the pre-election consultation is implemented.
- Reasonable commitments on fuel poverty (heating programme,
decent homes standard etc.) and support for credit unions.
- Vague reference to "improve social work training"
and best use of resources.
Section 4: Developing a Confident, Democratic Scotland
- Another "independent review" of local government
finance. A fudge between the very different Labour and Liberal
- Strong commitment to "actively implement the PPP protocol".
Given the recent draft scoping guidance this will be an early
priority for UNISON.
- Low key support for PPP that becomes just one of a range of
funding options for public service infrastructure. We will need
to press home the Audit Scotland level playing field recommendation,
which was explicitly supported, in the Liberal manifesto.
- Removing unnecessary political restrictions on standing for
local elections is welcome.
- PR for local government using the Single Transferable Vote
system with 3 or 4 member wards has been the big headline. Not
a big problem for UNISON Scotland as we support PR for local
elections and will need to look closely at the proposed system.
- Retaining Scottish Water in public ownership is welcome as
is the commitment to "support it with the resources necessary",
something which has not always been in place.
Section 5: Working Together
- This sets out the working arrangements between the partnership
parties. The key issue of ministerial portfolios will be an
appendix to the agreement.
16 May 2003
Dave Watson -
@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572