Tuesday 31 January 2012

Watchdog issues warning on Scottish climate change action

Tuesday 31st January 2012
  • Recent emission reductions due to recession, not government measures
  • Emissions now rising, new government measures needed

An independent UK watchdog has today increased the pressure on the Scottish Government to amend the budget to ensure Scotland meets the targets set out in the Scottish Climate Change Act. [1]

Responding to the publication today of the UK Committee on Climate Change (UKCCC) assessment of the progress Scotland has made towards reaching its emission targets, since passing the Climate Change Act, Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said:

"This assessment of Scotland's progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions makes it pretty clear the government must raise its game. The Committee conclude that climate emissions have mainly fallen due to the recession and not as a result of government policy.

"Most worryingly the report says that rather than locking in the reduction, emissions were back on the rise in 2010. This is particularly true in the transport sector, highlighted by the Committee as an example of where new policy effort is needed from the Scottish Government.

"This call for action jars with the Budget currently making its way through Parliament which has a worrying disregard for the climate legislation. Instead of committing funds to build on sustainable transport policies as the Committee urges, the Government proposes to cut funding by a third, ignoring policies that would reduce emissions, improve health and air quality and benefit our communities. At the same time it is pouring money into the roads budget, the one area where emissions continue to rise.

"Unless the budget is amended to fully fund the measures set out in the Scottish Government's action plan [2] it risks disappointing the tens of thousands of people in Scotland, and around the world, who called for action on climate change."

  1. The report is available from the CCC's website at: http://www.theccc.org.uk/reports/scottish-report
  2. Scottish Government Action Plan - Low Carbon Scotland: The Report on Proposals and Policies. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/346760/0115345.pdf

Thursday 26 January 2012

Threat to 2000 police staff jobs is criminal - UNISON Scotland

Date: Thursday 26 Jan 2012 

Two thousand police staff jobs are under immediate threat in a budget-cutting move which UNISON describes as “criminally wasteful, poorly thought out and highly provocative”.

Peter Veldon, Regional Organiser for UNISON’s Scottish police staff, said:
“Scotland’s police chiefs propose to meet budget constraints imposed by the Scottish government almost entirely by cutting 2000 support staff – even though a thousand staff posts have already been cut in the last year. They plan an immediate budget cut of £6.5 million in the coming financial year, even before the new Scotland-wide police service begins.”

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns in Scotland said:
“Cutting 2000 police staff would take policing in Scotland back to the 1970s. It would be like Life on Mars, a cop show set in a timewarp – but in fact, not in fiction.”

“UNISON has consistently warned of the danger of cutting police staff. It makes no economic or policing sense –  it simply means that important support and expert jobs  are increasingly done by police officers.

“Police officers are not trained to do these jobs. They are paid much more than the police staff who have the right skills and expertise. And of course police officers should really be out in our streets and communities upholding law and order.

“On top of a thousand staff jobs already cut in the last year or so, this latest proposal is nothing short of criminally wasteful, poorly thought out and highly provocative.

“Our police staff members provide skilled and expert support services which help in the fight against crime. They should not be targeted for mass redundancy just so the Scottish government can brag about police officer numbers in the streets  – when in fact the cops are going to be sitting at desks, just like the bad old days of the 1960s and 1970s, in dodgy flares and hairstyles no doubt – being paid twice as much to do jobs they’re not trained or skilled in.

“Cutting 2000 police staff jobs is dangerous backward-looking nonsense, and not an effective use of either police officers or our dedicated members.”


Note to editors

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 162,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland, and represents police staffs in Scotland.

2. UNISON Scotland commissioned Stewart Research to examine the benefits of police staff – the report ‘Civilianisation of Police in Scotland’ published in May 2009 is available on our website: 

3. UNISON Scotland’s document ‘Future of Policing in Scotland - Response to Scottish Government consultation’ published in May 2011 is available on our website:


Tuesday 24 January 2012

BBC anti-apartheid TV documentary series - starts tonight (Tue 24 Jan)

UNISON Scotland activist Dave Kenvyn says: "This documentary series, about the worldwide campaign against apartheid, starts on BBC4 tonight (Tuesday 24 Jan 2012 at 10.00 pm) featuring, amongst others, me. It has already won a number of "Best Documentary" awards and is well worth watching."


SSCS: Budget Bill fails to match climate ambition

Monday 23rd January 2012

Calls for appropriate levels of funding to reduce emissions are ignored 

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) has expressed major disappointment in the Scottish Government’s Budget Bill which has now been published.

The proposed Budget continues to ignore the need to fully fund the measures set out in the Government’s own plans to reduce Scotland’s emissions in line with the Scottish Climate Change Act. In particular, funding to improve and expand cycling and walking infrastructure is still set to be cut by a third while, at the same time, the roads budget will increase by 16%.

As part of an SCCS campaign, hundreds of people across the country contacted their MSPs to highlight concerns about funding for the plans to ensure Scotland meets its legally-binding climate change targets. On Wednesday 11th January, more than 350 people on bikes and on foot gathered outside the office of the Scottish Government, at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh, to show their support for that campaign. Their calls have been ignored.

Ministers have also overlooked the recommendations of two Parliamentary Committees who urged the Government to align its Budget with its climate change ambitions.

Read more here, including SCCS Budget Briefing for MSPs.


Monday 23 January 2012

UNISON members horrified by attack from SNP minister Alex Neil

Mon 23 January 2012

SNP government minister Alex Neil has caused a storm of anger amongst UNISON members after claiming that North Lanarkshire Council was “not fit for purpose” in his weekly blog on a newspaper website and further comments in The Herald on Saturday.

In a direct attack on council workers, Neil stated that council departments were “bloated with staff”, accused workers of “badgering” residents, “refusing to help” people and being “overly bureaucratic”.

UNISON North Lanarkshire branch secretary Chris Armstrong said:
“Alex Neil’s comments horrified our members, who provide valuable caring services every day to all of our communities in North Lanarkshire.

“UNISON has no problem with the cut and thrust of political debate ahead of local elections in May but this unprovoked attack on our members from an SNP Minister - who is partly responsible for cuts in jobs and services - is completely unacceptable. Mr Neil should apologise to our members.

“To say we should be more worried about redundancies is offensive. UNISON members work hard to maintain public services in the face of financial pressures which come from his own Scottish government's policies as well as those of the Tory-led coalition in Westminster. His comments clearly imply that staff should be put out of their jobs. Our members are already worried about redundancies and find his views hard to credit.

“That’s why we’ve written to him to ask specifically whether his comments reflect personal opinion - or if they reflect the views of the government he serves.”

North Lanarkshire UNISON branch has written to Mr Neil to express the views of union members. The text of this letter is attached below.


Note for editors:

Text of letter to Alex Neil from North Lanarkshire UNISON branch – 20 January 2012

Dear Mr Neil

I am writing to you on behalf of seven thousand UNISON members who work within North Lanarkshire Council, in response to your article in the Wishaw Press (‘North Lanarkshire Council not fit for purpose’).

You comments in the above article have horrified our members, who provide valuable caring services on a daily basis to all our communities in North Lanarkshire. UNISON would be interested to know, are these view your personal views, the view of the SNP group on North Lanarkshire Council, or indeed the views of the SNP government as a whole?

At a time when local government faces the implementation of draconian budget cuts and many of our members feel vulnerable and insecure, your statements do little for the morale of thousands of low paid, loyal dedicated and hard-working public servants.

UNISON looks forward to receiving your early response.

Yours sincerely

Chris Armstrong
Branch Secretary
UNISON North Lanarkshire


Friday 20 January 2012

Scottish Government must do the right thing by public services in Budget - UNISON

Fri 20 Jan 2012

UNISON Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to do the right thing by public services and the people who provide them following the publication of the Budget Bill today.  

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary said:

“Finance Secretary John Swinney says his budget will use every lever available to secure investment and jobs. We want him to do the right thing by Scottish public services and the people who provide them. So he needs to use the right levers – and we’ll be making representation to ensure that he does.

“We want to see infrastructure projects brought forward  and support for capital investment  but using the discredited  PFI model -  which is what the “non profit distributing (NPD)” model he specifically refers to actually means - will cost us more in the long run. Doing the right thing means proper publicly-funded investment.

“We have campaigned over many years to win a Living Wage for people providing public services. It is good to ensure workers whose ‘pay is controlled by the Scottish Government’ will receive the Scottish Living Wage of 7.20. But the Scottish Government has the ability to influence pay far wider than that – for example by ensuring that contractors in public, voluntary and community sectors meet minimum standards. Doing the right thing would mean committing to a Living Wage for all workers delivering public services.

“And continuing the Council Tax freeze is not the right thing – in fact it has been damaging to local democracy, and to jobs and services in communities across Scotland.”


Note to editors

1. UNISON Scotland has over 165,000 members and is the largest union in Scottish public services.

2. UNISON Scotland made detailed Budget submissions in October 2011 to three major Scottish Parliamentary committees. These are available on our website as follows:

Thursday 19 January 2012

UNISON welcomes Edinburgh Council decision to support in-house bids over privateers

Date: Thu 19 Jan 2012

UNISON Scotland has welcomed the decision by Edinburgh City Council to support in-house bids for vital city services instead of privatising them.

The full council voted today for a joint Labour-SNP amendment with Green Party backing which overturned a proposal by the ruling Lib Dem-led coalition to award a contract for Integrated Facilities Management to private bidder Mitie.

UNISON branch President John Stevenson said:

“This is the best outcome we could have got – following the victory in November for keeping Environmental Services public, and the recent abandonment of the ruling group’s plans to privatise Corporate and Transactional Services.

John Stevenson told the full Council meeting this morning:
“UNISON has been campaigning to keep these services in-house for three reasons. Firstly because we think it is the right thing to do. We think it is right that quality public services are delivered by a public service team directly accountable to the people of Edinburgh through their elected councillors. We think it is right that our taxes should go directly to services, to the people who deliver them and the people who rely on them, rather than to profits and shareholders.

“Secondly because we believe that the public sector comparators – the in-house options – have risen to the challenge and will deliver not only best value but a continuing commitment to public services in Edinburgh.

“And thirdly because we believe that it is right that the Council should show trust, confidence and respect in its own workforce.

John Stevenson said:

“At the beginning of the process, the Council made it clear that there would have to be a compelling case for privatisation. We clearly believe that a compelling case has NOT been made for privatisation and we believe we have consistently provided compelling and credible analysis and evidence to show that.

“The unions and Council employees have put enormous work into this process. We have shown in detail that the in-house options have been realistic, fair and efficient – but most of all workable – especially if we have a level playing field and like is compared with like.”


Tuesday 17 January 2012

Cuts to police staff could have damaging effect on law and order - UNISON

Date: 17 Jan 2012

A new Bill to create a single Scottish police force could have a damaging effect on law and order if it signals a fresh round of cuts to police staff, UNISON Scotland said today. The union, which organises police support staff across Scotland, identified cuts and funding as major areas of concern following the publication of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill which was published today by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Peter Veldon, Regional Organiser for UNISON’s Scottish police staff, said:

“Any reform of public services should be in the best interests of the people of Scotland. However, as we argued in our response to the consultation on this Bill,  the main motivation for a unitary police body appears to be focussed on saving money.

“There are a number of areas of concern surrounding the Bill which will affect our members – and thus threaten delivery of police services.

“The new Scottish Police Authority will be expected to achieve savings of between £88m and £151m per year.

“Meanwhile, if the Chief Constable of the new force is still under the constraint of maintaining police officer numbers, this will mean the burden of any cuts will be aimed squarely at police staff.

“There is also still a great deal of uncertainty over the VAT liability issue which could see the Scottish Police Authority paying the treasury £22m per year whilst trying to achieve huge savings.”

UNISON Scotland argued in its consultation response that ‘taking trained operational police officers off the streets to perform administrative tasks – at greater cost - is economic madness’.”


Note to editors

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 162,000
members working in the public sector in Scotland, and represents police
staffs in Scotland.

2. UNISON Scotland’s document ‘Future of Policing in Scotland - Response to Scottish Government consultation’ published in May 2011 is available on our website:


Wednesday 11 January 2012

SCCS tells Scottish Government 'Get on yer bike'

Wed 11 January 2012

Scottish cyclists today gathered outside St Andrews House in Edinburgh to call on the Scottish Government to invest in cycling and walking and low carbon transport, and fully fund their own plans to meet Scotland's climate change targets.

More than 350 people, most on bikes, took part. Pics here 

The action was supported by cycling ace Chris Boardman MBE, Britain's most successful cyclist to date, although he wasn't able to be in Scotland for the event.

Chris Boardman said:

"It's great to see that so many people in Scotland are enthusiastic about cycling as a low carbon form of transport.  We all have a responsibility to help tackle global warming and this is a clean, healthy way to help reduce our carbon emissions.

"To get people on their bikes, and make sure Scotland plays its part in addressing climate change, there needs to be proper investment in cycling infrastructure."

Tom Ballantine, Chair of event organiser Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said:

"The government must now step up and fully fund all of the measures set out in its own plans to meet our climate change targets, the Low Carbon Scotland Report on Proposals and Policies.

"In particular the government needs to reverse cuts to funding for cycling and walking in the 2012/2013 budget and instead invest in sustainable, low carbon transport, which is why so many people have turned up here today."


Tuesday 10 January 2012

UNISON members give green light to pensions negotiations - Scottish comment

Date:               10 January 2012

At meetings today in London, UNISON’s elected lay representatives voted overwhelmingly to sanction further negotiations over public service pension schemes.

Scotland has separate pension schemes in health and local government with regulatory responsibility resting with the Scottish Government.

UNISON Scottish Convener Lillian Macer said:

“As the Scottish Government has the responsibility to address these issues in Scotland we call upon Scottish Ministers to explore a distinct Scottish solution for the public service workforce."


Note to editors
UNISON press release today with statement by General Secretary Dave Prentis


Edinburgh bows to low paid women in equal pay

Date:               10 January 2012

The path to justice and compensation has been cleared for hundreds of UNISON members today as Edinburgh City Council abandoned its defence of long running equal pay claims. UNISON has been pursuing over 1100 claims for low paid women but many payments had been delayed by the council’s intention to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court in London.

Peter Hunter, UNISON Regional Organiser said:

“The council’s decision to abandon the Supreme Court appeal is another equal pay triumph for low paid women in UNISON. UNISON has been championing this specific issue in the Supreme Court for some time and we are delighted our huge investment has paid off.

"The council’s claim that women and men can be treated differently if they work in different council buildings was a fairly desperate defence.  The time-wasting and delay must stop now – our members deserve justice. Lord knows they’ve waited long enough.

“Hundreds of councils across the UK have been stalling on equality for women in the hope that work location or other trivia might be a defence for discrimination. This ruling has major implications and will be a welcome boost for workers whose wages are being attacked left, right and centre.”



FOI must be safeguarded - Scottish Information Commissioner

Scotland's outgoing Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion has played a vital role in establishing a strong Freedom of Information regime.

In overseeing the successful implementation of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), he has made wide-ranging and important decisions backing the public's right to know.

Just one example, among many, is a number of key decisions on PFI/PPP, where the Commissioner ruled that information was wrongly withheld and should be made public.

His Special Report to the Scottish Parliament today makes recommendations for ensuring that FOI legislation is safeguarded.

The Scottish Government has failed to act on one of the most compelling of the Commissioner's long-argued points - that information rights should follow the public pound.

His report today emphasises that extending FOI legislation to cover private companies and other bodies that deliver public services is in many cases not an extension, but SAFEGUARDING rights that are being eroded.

Mr Dunion's report says, about designating additional public bodies to be subject to FOISA:

"...designation is not necessarily about extending rights to information, but safeguarding them. This is particularly true where services which were once supplied directly by public authorities covered by FOISA are now delivered by bodies which are not, such as: trusts established to deliver services on behalf of local authorities; those private contractors which provide health, educational and penal infrastructure and services to the public sector; and housing asssociations to which housing stock has been transferred from local authorities.

"Tenants, patients, parents, service users, voluntary organisations and indeed elected members lose the right to information when such a change in service delivery takes place."

Scotland is at risk of falling behind the UK FOI legislation in this area. The Scottish Government should think again about extending FOI to cover these bodies and, as recommended by Mr Dunion, should establish "a rolling programme of active review..so that designation can keep pace with changes in public service delivery."

See also the report in today's Herald Commissioner leaves with call for extra powers


Friday 6 January 2012

Ambulance crews reject payment for rest breaks

6 January 2012

Following a ballot UNISON members in the Ambulance Service have rejected an offer of payment for working rest breaks.

The result of the ballot was Accept 35% Reject 65%

UNISON Scotland organiser David Forbes said:

This is fundamentally an issue of resourcing. Our members have been consistently telling us they need their uninterrupted rest breaks. They need to be able to switch off for a part of the day in order to deliver the best possible service for patients.

We will be meeting with the employer on Monday and urging them to  ensure that the ambulance service is sufficiently resourced to deliver the excellent service patients require and expect whilst allowing for decent treatment of staff.


Notes to editors
Previous UNISON Press releases on the dispute can be found here


Sunday 1 January 2012

Empowerment and pride in our union: New Year message from Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary

I would like to wish you and yours sincere best wishes for the holiday season. As most of us enjoy a break, we know that a number of our colleagues are keeping vital public services available for the whole community.

2011 has been an eventful year for UNISON and the labour and trade union movement, faced with a Coalition Government at Westminster, which does not understand the value of public services to the quality of life of everyone, and is ideologically opposed to much that we stand for and represent.

I would like to thank you all for your contributions, commitment and personal support of UNISON, with a renewed commitment that UNISON will be here for you in 2012, protecting and advancing the conditions of members at work, and in the community.

The pensions dispute has shown us at our best, leading members on the issues, when and where you want to be led. The sense of empowerment and pride in the union, will fit us all for what’s to come, in pensions, pay, protection of jobs and public services in 2012.

Have a Happy New Year.

Mike J Kirby
Scottish Secretary