The FBU and UNISON highlighted that the
creation of a centralised Police and Fire
Service has meant the Scottish taxpayer
footing a bill of approximately £30
million pounds through the loss of VAT
exemption – a burden that is unnecessary
and unfair and impacts dramatically on
both community and emergency worker safety.
The STUC will now call on the Scottish
Government to take this up with the Westminster
George McIrvine, of the UNISON Police
Staff Scotland Branch, seconding an FBU
motion, told congress that UNISON had
raised this issue with the Scottish Government
some two years ago and had argued that
a single police force could have been
established as a Local Government Joint
Board and retain their VAT exemption.
“But of course that would have
meant less direct ministerial influence
and control over Scottish Police,”
said George, adding that it would, however,
have strengthened greater local democratic
accountability, now sadly lacking in the
new Police Service.
“At the time in 2012, some of the
Scottish Government’s explanations
raised suspicions that they knew about
this issue of VAT exemption before the
Police and Fire Reform Bill was published.”
UNISON then submitted a Freedom of Information
request for the correspondence in relation
to the Police and fire VAT.
“Surprise, surprise Congress, the
Scottish Government refused this on the
'catch all' grounds that this was only
advice to ministers. They even refused
to confirm that such papers even existed.
However, UNISON got the documents on
appeal, said George, and the key point
was that HMRC had made it crystal clear
that a National Force would not qualify
for VAT exemption.
“This was never included in the
consultation, and consultees were not
given the full picture of the consequences
of the centralisation of police and fire.
“Not the standard of openness we
are entitled to expect from any government.
More a case of burying bad headline news
that doesn’t support the Scottish
Governments centralisation agenda”
“The Scottish taxpayer, and indeed
police and fire support staff, are now
paying the hefty price.”