Friday, 27 July 2012

Oppose Griffin and fascists in Dalkeith on Saturday

UNISON members are calling for people to meet at 12.30 pm Sat 28 Aug at Jarnac Court Dalkeith to oppose Nick Griffin and fascist groups trying to hijack a local issue

Thursday, 26 July 2012

UNISON Scotland welcomes decision to lift the ban on same sex marriage

UNISON, Scotland’s largest trade union, has welcomed the long-awaited announcement that the Scottish Government will legislate for same-sex couples to marry.

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said:

“UNISON has long campaigned for marriage and civil partnership to be open to all couples, irrespective of gender or gender identity.

“Same sex marriage is about equality and freedom. Restricting marriage to opposite sex couples perpetuates homophobia and reinforces the view that same sex couples are second best and cannot be a real family.

“This type of discrimination has no place in a modern Scotland and we’re glad the Scottish Government has taken this important step towards a fairer and more equal Scotland.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Tale of Two Barnets 20 August

Get your ticket for a screening of  'A Tale of Two Barnets'  in support of Barnet UNISON's campaign against wholesale privatisation of Council services. UNISON Edinburgh is hosting the screening during the Edinburgh Festival at.....
UNISON, Douglas House, Edinburgh
5pm: Drinks reception and introductions
6pm: Film 'A Tale of Two Barnets'
Followed by informal discussion.
7.30 Event closes.

Tickets at

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Government told last August about police reform VAT bill

The Scottish Government was told in August 2011 the new single police force would have to pay millions in VAT unless they amended the funding structure, according to today's Herald.

Letters show officials knew before the public consultation on the merging of the country's eight police forces about the VAT liability, and were told over the following months that paying it was avoidable if the structure of Scotland's new police service was slightly amended.

However, officials refused and instead asked HMRC to amend the legislation to avoid £22 million-a-year VAT bill.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns for UNISON Scotland, said: "It is now clear the Scottish Government understood the VAT exemption would be lost before the September consultation that set out their preferred option of centralisation. Less than transparent, more a case of burying bad news. The Scottish taxpayer will now pay the price."

Read the full article in today's Herald or online at:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

SCCS: @ScotGov fails first climate test. World leading action needed

17 July 2012

The Scottish Government’s failure to meet the first target set by the Climate Change Act marks an extremely worrying start to the implementation of this legislation.

Today’s announcement that Scotland emitted more greenhouse gases in 2010 than the previous year, means ambition has not been matched by action.

The figures for 2010 were released today and show that Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by nearly 2% from 2009.

2010 is the first year in which annual emissions reduction targets have been set under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. The Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the Act in 2009 and was praised for taking a world-leading stance on tackling climate change.

Mike Robinson, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland board member, said: “Scotland is proud of our political leadership in setting legislation on this issue, but this has to translate into credible action on the ground.

“These figures underline the need for greater leadership in actually delivering reductions. World-leading climate legislation needs world-leading climate action.

“It is unacceptable to the thousands of people across Scotland who called for a strong Climate Change Act in 2009 that we have fallen short of this first test...

Full story here


Friday, 13 July 2012

NHS On Call final offer: Briefing and ballot details

Following negotiations with NHS Scotland employers UNISON and the other trade unions have agreed that the offer put on the table by our employers is the best that can be achieved through negotiation. As a consequence of this being a FINAL offer we are writing to all members to consult them on the terms of the employers’ proposals. Click for full details.

Police VAT - the plot thickens

UNISON Scotland has previously highlighted the cost to the taxpayer of the creation of centralised police and fire services, because this structure means the loss of VAT exemption enjoyed by the current organisations. As a consequence the Scottish taxpayer has to pick up a bill of some £30m.

We have argued that you could have a single police force established as local government joint board, funded through a precept and retain s33 status. Of course that would mean less direct ministerial influence over the police, but it would strengthen local democratic accountability.

Some of the Scottish Government explanations raised suspicions that they knew about this issue before the Bill was published. So we did an FoI for the correspondence in relation to police and fire VAT. They refused on the catch all grounds that this was advice to ministers. They even refused to confirm that such papers existed. A very similar line to today’s FoI story in relation to legal guidance on Scotland's EU membership.

We then appealed to the Commissioner and the Scottish Government has now reconsidered their position and provided the documents.

They key point from these documents is that HMRC made it very clear in their letter dated 15 August 2011 that a national force would not qualify for the s33 VAT exemption.

They set out the criteria:

“Over the years, numerous different bodies have asked to be admitted to the section 33 scheme. To ensure a fair and consistent basis for decisions on admission, and to stick closely to the original rationale for the scheme, successive Governments have applied two strict criteria when assessing these requests. Bodies would only be admitted to section 33 if they:
(i) were both carrying out activities ordinarily carried out by local government; and
(ii) had the power to draw their funds directly from local taxation. I understand that in Scotland his may be referred to as requisitioning powers.”

Self evidently neither of these criteria would be met by a national force, funded by the Scottish Government and the letter makes it clear that BOTH criteria must be met and it is strictly applied.

Despite this letter (15 August) the Scottish Government published its second consultation paper on 8 September 2011. That consultation paper makes it clear (para4.3 P19) that funding “should be consolidated into a single funding stream which the Scottish Government will provide to the Scottish Police Authority”. There is a similar section (p42) for fire. The issue of VAT is not mentioned in this paper despite Scottish Government officials raising their concerns with HMRC in May 2011. 

The Bill was published in January 2012 and only then is the issue of VAT raised. The policy memorandum states that “the Scottish Government is currently liaising with HMRC and HM Treasury”. Technically true, but as the correspondence shows the UK officials just keep referring back to the position clearly stated in the original reply in August 2011.

The failure to include the VAT position in the September consultation meant that 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 news that doesn't support the Government line. The Scottish taxpayer will now pay the price.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Pension costs falling

Projections contained in today's Office for Budget Responsibility report show total gross spending on public service pensions peaking at around 2.3 per cent of GDP during the five-year forecast period, before falling to 1.3 per cent of GDP by 2061-62. These figures show a steeper fall than their 2011 projections. This chart illustrates how, far from costs running out of control, as some claim, they are in fact falling sharply.

Somewhat different from the nonsense the Tax Dodgers Alliance put out this week!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

UNISON response to Taxpayers' Alliance pensions nonsense

Wed 11 July 2012

“Financially illiterate drivel aimed at advancing a political agenda to make pensioners poorer” says public services union    
UNISON, Scotland largest union in Scotland’s public services, is today calling on the so-called Taxpayers' Alliance (TPA), to get its facts straight after the shady right-wing, low-tax pressure group attacked local government pensions. Again.

Payments into the Local Government Pension Scheme in Scotland last year were £299.944 million MORE than being paid out to pensioners. This inconvenient fact is ignored by the self styled think tank  - who likewise seem not to have noticed a connection between  the cuts in council workforce that that they have been urging and decline in local government workers paying in to the pension schemes  

The tax dodgers' alliance report points out the LGPS like is maturing with an increasing number of pensioners. What they fail to mention is that this is the case with almost all pension funds in the UK.

 Similarly unmentioned are;

·         That the pension funds enjoy an enormous income from investment – and so aren’t entirely reliant on contributions from members and employers

·         That a recent (2011) actuarial valuation of the Local Government Pension Scheme Scotland was very positive

·         The LGPS Scotland is currently taking in almost £300 million per year more than it is paying out.

·         Even in the event that the scheme was felt to be under pressure - a cost sharing agreement is in place.

·         Just 5p in every £1 paid in council tax goes towards pensions. Councils get only 25% of their revenue from council tax, 75% comes from other sources, including business rates and local government grants.

·         The numbers in the tax Dodgers Alliance report would only begin to make sense if everyone in local government decided to retire on the same day - a social, political and actuarial absurdity.

Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary, said:
"This right-wing pressure group never lets facts get in the way of attacking public services and the people that deliver them. This is financially illiterate drivel. The TPA are simply out of touch with reality.

Pensions for local government are an affordable way of people saving for their retirement - and the results of that are modest enough  the average pensions for council workers in Scotland  is just £4,000 a year, dropping to just £2,800 for women.
We need to bring private sector pensions up to a decent level, not pull public sector pensions down - two thirds of employees do not get a single penny in contributions from their employers towards their pensions. The government's plans for auto-enrolment will not go far enough to keep people off means tested benefits.”


Notes to editors
On Pension fund suprpluses in Scotland see

UNISON Scotland pensions pages

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Crooks get away because of police paperwork failings

Scottish Legal News reports a big jump in the number of criminal proceedings dropped in Scotland last year because the police had failed to file paperwork on time, has contributed to a total of over 12,000 cases abandoned for different reasons.

Police failures were to blame in 1,939 cases, a 40% rise on the previous year, according to figures obtained under a freedom of information request. The offences involved include over 200 cases of dishonesty and 169 of fraud.

ACPOS, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, described the figures as "highly regrettable". Scottish Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald blamed the figures on staff job losses over the last two years.

Under Scottish Government plans administrative support to police officers is being slashed. 1000 posts have already gone and a further 3000 posts are planned to be cut. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Scotland’s MSPs must defend careers service, says UNISON

Friday 6 July 2012
UNISON is calling for an urgent meeting with local MSPs to defend the future of Scotland’s career service.

The move follows a series of cuts to careers services in the south side of Glasgow which the union says will have a detrimental impact on young unemployed people.

Last month, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) closed its Cathcart Road centre and moved to a smaller shared facility within Newlands Job Centre. The services on offer have also been cut and young people will no longer have on-site access to SDS’s online service which, in addition to offering careers guidance, allows young people to search for job vacancies.

To add insult to injury, SDS also cut the hours of its Castlemilk centre from one day a week to just half a day.

Gerry Crawley, UNISON’s Regional Organiser, said: “With youth unemployment at unprecedented levels, there is a clear need to ensure crucial face-to-face guidance is easily accessible to young people.

“Some young people now face two bus journeys just to get to the new centre, not to mention a further journey to a local library to access the online careers service. This raises concerns over accessibility and the increased financial burden on young people to access careers advice.

“We need to make getting on the career ladder as easy as possible for young people, and putting barriers in their way is not the way forward. We’re calling on MSPs to defend Scotland’s careers service and not to condemn a whole generation of young people to life on the dole queue.”


Note to editors
The Skills Development Office in Cathcart Road offered careers advice to 150 young people in the month of May alone