The fast moving debate around devolution across the
UK was high on the Conference agenda this year, with
two motions and a lunchtime fringe.
Over 200 delegates packed the joint region fringe
meeting on the topic on Wednesday, which looked at the
different models for public services in the devolved
administrations and the proposed city partnerships in
England, and the implications for UNISON and the trade
Later that afternoon Scotland's Jane Carolan on behalf
of the NEC, highlighted the need for UNISON to revisit
its devolution protocol - a call supported by the conference.
"UNISON's internal debate on devolution started
after the setting up of the Scottish parliament, the
Welsh assembly, the Northern Ireland assembly and more
latterly the London assembly and mayor," said Jane.
"Prior to those institutions being set up our
members in these nations participated in the civil society
movements pushing for change, and played a crucial role
in the development of the proposals that brought those
institutions into being, seeing these as a vital element
that bridged a democracy gap between UK institutions
and the nations within the UK."
She reminded us that our support for the new institutions
was overwhelming but required a rule change "allowing
the union to reflect difference in policy bargaining
and communications across the nations and regions -
as well as facilitating learning from the experience."
"That was fine in 2004," said Jane "But
in a phrase from the original report, devolution is
an event not a process.
"In 2015 that process has moved on considerably.
Powers for the Scottish parliament have already changed
and will do so again with the enactment of the Smith
Commission, and the Wales Act 2014 changes the nature
of the assembly."
Jane added that in the meantime, the political landscape
itself has changed considerably.
"So the time is right to review our processes
- our approach to policy, to bargaining, to campaigning
and to our communications and the resources that go
with them", said Jane, promising that this will
be an NEC priority in the forthcoming year, changing
our working practice to better reflect the world we
Glasgow’s Brian Smith also pointed to the changes
in the political landscape which make the current devolution
arrangements “untenable,” and called for
the devolution protocol to be recognised in the political
fund arrangements as per policy agreed in 2008.