Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland
Modernising the System
Scottish Executive Consultation Paper
UNISON Scotland Comments
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation
document "Appointments to Public Bodies - Modernising the System".
We are the country's largest union with 145,000 members in Scotland,
many of whom are employed by the public bodies affected by the proposals.
Whilst we welcome the Scottish Executive's commitment to review the
public appointments system in Scotland we believe that a more fundamental
review is required into public bodies themselves and their relationship
to the Scottish Executive, Scottish Parliament and local government.
We believe that the guiding principle in any such review is that public
bodies should be subject to democratic accountability and scrutiny.
Answers to Specific Questions
Chapter 2 KEY OBJECTIVES OF THE PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS SYSTEM
Do you think that the objectives set out in the Chapter are the
UNISON Scotland broadly agrees with the objectives
set. Before we can widen representation on public appointments,
however, the Scottish Executive needs to look at the reasons for
under representation of frequently excluded groups.
The reasons are many and complex and are related to
the institutional discrimination inherent within both the Scottish
Executive and the public bodies. UNISON Scotland believes that positive
action and a nurturing culture would assist those groups currently
We have two comments about the fifth objective. Firstly,
we believe that it is not just women, people from ethnic minorities
and people with disabilities who are under represented in public
bodies. We suspect other groups such as younger people, lesbian
and gay people, and people from low income backgrounds and non traditional
education are also under-represented and it should be an objective
of the Scottish Executive to improve their representation. Secondly,
we believe this objective could be stronger.
The Executive should not just be encouraging people
to apply for public bodies but taking appropriate action to "ensure"
such groups are represented.
Are any more important than others?
UNISON Scotland believes that the last two objectives
should take overriding importance: to ensure a wider range of people
to be represented in public bodies and to ensure accessibility to
applicants to public bodies and to those who serve on them.
Chapter 3 ATTRACTING A WIDER RANGE OF PEOPLE TO PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS
Do you agree with the measures that the Executive intend to take
to promote service on public bodies to a wider audience?
UNISON Scotland agrees with the range of measures
the Scottish Executive is proposing to advertise and promote service
on public bodies.
We particularly welcome proposals for additional information
and briefing awareness sessions to help these groups to understand
and therefore be empowered to pursue public appointments.
In what other ways do you think the system could
be made more accessible and attractive to potential candidates?
The venues where publicly appointed committees meet
should be accessible to disabled people. Times of meeting should
be varied to encourage maximum participation and child care/carers
expenses should be available prior to meetings taking place. Adverts
for Public Appointment should be placed as widely as possible in
various community languages as well as being made available in alternative
formats. Community of interest papers and magazines should also
Do you think that the targets set by Scottish Executive
Ministers for diversifying membership of public bodies are appropriate?
UNISON Scotland believes that a targets system is
a second best solution.
If targets are to be used, however, then there should
be targets for the number of trade unionists included. For too many
years people from trade unions have been excluded from public bodies.
Inclusion of trade unionists would help to address the under representation
of people from different backgrounds. We also believe there is a
powerful argument for having set aside trade union seats on public
bodies to ensure effective partnership working.
We would advocate a system of positive action and
the adoption of the principles of proportionality and fair representation.
In terms of gender we believe that women and men should
be equally represented on public bodies.
In terms of black people, disabled people and lesbian
and gay people we believe there are powerful arguments, in certain
public bodies, for these groups to have reserved seats to ensure
their voice is heard.
This is not an ideal solution but it would be progress
on what we have at the moment and would be a step towards ensuring
more representative public bodies.
Do you think that these are the right targets for
achieving greater representation in public appointments?
If targets are to be used there should be mixture
in the kinds of targets used.
There should be `across the board' targets (eg 50%
of all bodies in a sector should be chaired by women) and there
should be `specific' targets for each body (eg 50% of all board
members should be women).
We believe that the composition of Children's panels
should be considered separately as this skews the overall composition
of public appointments.
If Children's Panels were excluded, what targets
might be appropriate? Are there any other targets that you would
like to see included?
See above. UNISON Scotland would also argue for targets
for young people and for people from low income and non-traditional
forms of education.
What are your views on payment for service on public
UNISON Scotland believes any system of payments should
reinforce the public service ethos. There should be no disincentive
to participating in public life and there needs to be fair compensation
for any work undertaken
Should the type and level of payment - according
to the type of body, the functions it carries out, or the size of
the budget - be reviewed?
UNISON believes the current system of payments is
arbitrary and inconsistent. We would advocate all posts being evaluated
against set criteria before the type and level of payment is awarded.
What specific forms of compensation - such as child
care costs - would you like to see being offered to members of the
boards of public bodies?
UNISON Scotland believes that appropriate levels of
payment for such things as child care and carers costs should be
made available so that a person's caring responsibilities do not
act as a barrier to participation in public bodies.
Chapter 5 IMPROVING THE APPOINTMENTS PROCESS AND STRENGTHENING THE
Do you think that the proportion of independent assessors on all
appointment panels should be increased?
Yes. We believe there should always be one involved
in the selection process.
Do you think that independent assessors should
be drawn from a wider range of people?
Yes. We believe that organisations like the STUC should
have a role in nominating independent assessors.
Do you think changes are needed to the NHS system?
UNISON believes that in the long term a fundamental
review of the NHS in Scotland is required with a much greater democratic
element involved in relation to the composition of NHS Trusts and
Chapter 6 SCOTTISH COMMISSIONER FOR PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS
Do you think that a Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments
should be established?
We strongly support such a move.
If so, who do you think should be responsible for
appointing a Scottish Commissioner?
The Scottish Executive should make a recommendation
to the Scottish Parliament and it should be the subject of their
Should the Commissioner be required to submit a
regular audit to Parliament?
Could the Office of a Scottish Commissioner be
combined with the office(s) of another Scottish regulatory body
in a way that reduces the overall costs to the public purse?
UNISON would prefer to see a Commissioner having sole
responsibility for public appointments rather than having his or
her work diluted by having other responsibilities.
Chapter 7 THE ROLE OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
How do you think the Parliament should monitor and review public
appointments made by the Scottish Ministers?
The Parliament should have a much more strengthened
role in terms of appointments and should be able to hold confirmation
hearings on proposed appointments for senior positions. The Parliament
should have the power to accept or refer back appointments and to
query current appointments where there is a perceived problem.
Do you believe that there would be merit in the
Executive and Parliament developing proposals for post-appointment
hearings along the lines described in the Chapter?
We would support hearings before appointments are
For further information please contact:
UNISON Scotland 0141 442 0006 (phone)
14 West Campbell Street 0141 331 1203 (fax)
Glasgow G2 6RX firstname.lastname@example.org
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