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Partnership for a Better Scotland

UNISON BRIEFING

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 for schools.

  • 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 been dropped.

  • 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 term funding.

  • 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 policies.

  • 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

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Further Information
Contacts list:

Dave Watson -
d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572