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Date: 21 April 2008

Scottish public services at risk and key to constitution debate - UNISON

The Scottish Government is in danger of presiding over a range of cuts in Scottish public services under the guise of so-called efficiency savings, said the main public service union UNISON today. Matt Smith, the union's Scottish Secretary, in a speech to the STUC Congress in Inverness this morning, also predicted that the debate around the constitution will centre on the importance of Scotland's public services.

Matt said "To achieve the Scottish Government's budget projections, the level of efficiency savings has already been increased by 33% - from 1.5% to 2%. However this easy-looking solution to funding shortages is often based on false assumptions about paper savings and the claim that this can somehow be achieved at no cost to the service or those providing it.

Whilst Matt welcomed many recent positive policies - such as opposition to much privatisation, and guarantees of no compulsory redundancies - he listed areas that were beginning to be threatened. Areas across the range of public services from local government to the voluntary sector.

"We are concerned that reductions in business tax and an urge to freeze council tax, are starving local authorities of much needed revenue. He said, "The impact goes beyond local government, threatened by cuts and huge outsourcing of services in the largest local authority - Glasgow City, and we can see that a heavy price is being paid by our voluntary sector, which faces the threat of second stage tendering and the absence of full cost recovery.

He also suggested that this debate would become a key factor in the ongoing debate over the constitution.

"Public services are at the heart of the work of the Scottish Parliament. In the future we will be discussing the type of Scotland we want, and the powers our Parliament requires. Within this debate will emerge the importance of our public services and the people who provide them.

ENDS

Note for Editors:- UNISON is Scotland's largest public service union, representing well over 160,000 workers working in Scotland's public services.

For Further Information Please Contact: Matt Smith (Scottish Secretary) 07771 548 997 (m) Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Policy) 07958 122 409(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

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