The Scottish Referendum Campaign, UNISON Policy
Recent publicity and media coverage of a number of UNISON activists
declaring themselves to be pro-Independence has caused confusion
regarding UNISON’s established policy. There have been a
growing number of requests for clarification of the UNISON Scotland
position from campaigning groups. There have been complaints from
individual members and branches, seeking retraction and clarification.
The statement was issued in a “personal capacity”
although refering to positions held in UNISON. It is acknowledged
that the media would be more interested in the roles in the trade
union. The statement was covered in various media. On first sight
of the STV web page, UNISON Scotland secured an addendum to distance
from the statement and to put on record the policy of the trade
A Unison Scotland spokesman stressed that the union did
not have a position either way on the referendum debate. He said:
"We would urge both sides of the campaign to explain to our
members how they intend to go about creating a more just, fairer
society in Scotland." This was carried on other web
outlets, e.g. newspapers. However, we were unable to influence
a copy deadline of printed media.
I would emphasise UNISON policy is that we do not have a policy
position either way on the referendum debate. We continue to scrutinise
the positions of the various campaigns and would urge all sides
to explain to our members how they intend to go about creating
a more just, fairer society in Scotland. Any constitutional change
should be a means to that end and not an objective in itself.
The UNISON position is well covered on the front of our website
and various publications.
This policy position has been adopted by UNISON Scotland and
by National Delegate Conference. The UNISON Rules and Democracy
Guidelines on the right to organise and campaign will apply.This
means that no UNISON resources, media or meetings should be used
to promote one side of the debate over another.
There are legal restraints on expenditure during the referendum
campaign and separate advice has been issued to branches on this
subject. It is legitimate to promote debate around UNISON policy
and this may involve invitations to and participation by the different
campaigns, and efforts should be made to ensure balance.
When using a UNISON title or elected office regard should be
paid to UNISON policy. When speaking in “a personal capacity”
it should be as such, and therefore there will be no need to make
reference to UNISON office. It is acknowledged that social media
provides many opportunities, and pitfalls. While individuals may
use personal accounts, regard should be had to any reference to
or association with UNISON.
UNISON will continue to respect the diversity of views of our
members as they will register them in the referendum. In the trade
union movement the debate has been conducted with humour and in
a spirit that should be a lesson to politicians. We need to take
that same spirit out to and beyond the trade union movement.
Mike J Kirby
2 July 2014