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Democracy Investment Fairness




UNISON's manifesto for Scotland's public services


Sustained long term investment is essential if we are to revitalise Scotland's public services. This must include the revenue to run day-to-day services and the capital to rebuild the infrastructure.

Adequate funding

The recent increase in public sector funding has begun to tackle the problems caused by years of under investment. Adequate funding is necessary to provide the infrastructure, proper staffing levels and to fund fair employment standards and training. Modernising public services effectively is not a one-off task but an ongoing process. Adequate funding also encourages staff to develop innovative solutions to service delivery rather than cope with service cuts.

Whilst recent funding increases have been welcome there remain serious funding problems. In particular, local government has received less favourable treatment than other public services despite significant new responsibilities and funding challenges including the cost of past pay discrimination.

Long term investment

Secure long-term funding is crucial if public services are to plan for the future. As public services involve users in making decisions about future services it is even more important that information is available about the future level of resources. This equally applies to the funding of community and voluntary organisations in order to assist them in raising their standards of provision.

Level playing field between public & private finance

The drive to rebuild Scotland's ageing infrastructure has involved the extensive use of Public Private Partnerships and the Private Finance Initiative (PPP/PFI). Billions of pounds of public money have been wasted. The Executive claims that this is only one of several procurement options for public bodies. It is not even the preferred option. However, for many capital schemes it is ‘the only game in town' as the Executive subsidises PFI and not conventional procurement. If we are to translate the Executive's claim into practice, much more needs to be done on the alternatives to PPP/PFI in Scotland.

Some of the alternatives require amendments to Treasury rules including new definitions of public expenditure in line with European models.‘Off balance sheet' incentives inherent in the current block grant system and Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL) also need reform. Enron economics is no way to finance our public services.

Progress could be made within Scotland by providing capital grants on a basis that gives public authorities a real choice between funding sources: A ‘level playing field'. There needs to be a substantial increase in capital funds and the freedom for all public authorities to borrow to fund investment. The Executive has made progress on this by giving local authorities prudential borrowing powers. But these powers are limited if grants are only available to those local authorities who use PFI.

Other claimed alternatives to PPP, such as ‘Not-for-profit trusts' are still PPP schemes with a different form of company structure. In the main this is simply window dressing.

Conventional borrowing remains the most cost effective and flexible method of financing public services. It retains accountability and enables public authorities to engage in genuine consultation with service users without the smokescreen of commercial confidentiality.

Public spending and the economy

Recent debates in the Scottish media have been highly critical of the scale of public spending in Scotland. Research commissioned by UNISONScotland demonstrates that there is little or no evidence over the long term, of a negative relationship between public spending and private investment. In fact public investment is crucial to the success of the Scottish economy. UNISON believes that Scotland can afford to invest in its public sector to create world class public services for all.

At an international level, there is no significant link between countries with high economic growth rates over the 1990s and levels of government spending and personal taxation.

Equally significant is the relationship between tax receipts and income equality. Countries with higher state involvement generally have lower levels of income inequality, suggesting that government intervention remains important in ensuring wealth is fairly distributed.

Claims that Scotland's public sector has crowded out the private sector in recent years are largely unsubstantiated. Other sectors have shown more rapid rates of employment growth. Scotland's public sector employment - at around one quarter of total employment - is less than the third claimed by critics.

Scottish public sector institutions are critical to the success of the Scottish economy through providing basic infrastructure as well as key human and technological resources for emergent sectors such as biotechnology. Public debate needs to move beyond a simple dichotomy of public sector ‘bad', private sector ‘good', to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how the two inter-relate in successful and balanced economies.




James CorryCareers Scotland members ensure the workforce of today and tomorrow develop employable skills and qualities to allow them to be effective career planners.

This makes sure they and the Scottish economy benefit from a flexible and motivated workforce. Co-ordination is important in delivering this service, so it is worrying that we are no longer accepting and administering vacancies for jobs, employed status Skillseekers and modern apprenticeships programmes. This will damage that overall service.

James Corry UNISON member and careers officer



© UNISONScotland 2006
Published by UNISONScotland,
UNISON House, 14 West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX. Tel 0141 332 0006