UNISON Scotland Submission to Smith Commission on Devolution
31 October 2014: UNISON Scotland believes that the debate on further devolution should be more than an examination of mechanisms. We recognise the importance of getting the balance of powers right and that should be done with some guiding principles such as subsidiarity.
In this submission to the Smith Commission we have outlined how extended devolution could be delivered with greater control over fiscal and other powers. In some cases this would give the Scottish Parliament the levers to address specifically Scottish issues. In other cases simply because it we would do things differently in Scotland without undermining the solidarity of the UK. One of the strengths of devolution is that other parts of the UK can learn from the success and failures of different approaches.
In this debate we should always remember that we seek greater devolved powers for the purpose of improving people’s lives. The constitutional mechanics are a means to an end. Not an end in themselves.
Enhanced Devolution, the Smith Commission - views wanted
On 19 September, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that
Lord Smith of Kelvin had agreed to oversee the process to take
forward the devolution commitments on further powers for the Scottish
The terms of reference for the Smith Commission are to convene
cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process
across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement
with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish
Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command Paper,
to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication
of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver
more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the
Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.
Interested parties have until 31 October to submit views, and
UNISON Scotland will do this directly and through the STUC.
In February 2013, UNISON Scotland had adopted Fairer Scotland
and Devolution, our contribution to the debate on how devolution
settlement can be strengthened.
It is evident that the grounds of the debate have altered since
that time and it would be appropriate to review that statement.
In the absence of a meeting of the Scottish Council before the
submission date of 31 October, the Scottish Committee Policy seminar
will meet on 23 -24 October and will consider submissions from
Any comments should reach me by 5.00pm on Monday 20 October,
2014, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike J Kirby
We will continue to press for a Just and Fairer
Mike Kirby UNISON Scottish Secretary
This independence referendum has been extra-ordinary. The turnout
alone (84%) the highest for any election in over 60 years–
tells you how seriously voters took their responsibility. It is
a truly humbling experience to see the power of democracy at times
UNISON is the biggest trade union in Scotland. We took our role
to ensure that the debate about Scotland constitutional future
delivered concrete benefits for working people very seriously
We engaged our membership through the formal processes at UNISON
Scottish Council and a series of area consultations. The extent
of the engagement amongst our members was reflected in what we
have seen across community and town halls throughout Scotland.
The views and reflections of UNISON members were articulated
in our two documents
A Fairer Scotland and Fairer
Scotland and Devolution.
I am grateful that we received the full support of UNISON at
a UK level as expressed in a resolution at the national
2014 delegate conference which urged UNISON members in Scotland
to engage in the debate and to press for commitments from all
parties along the lines of UNISON’s Fairer Scotland proposals.
Our key concerns were the role public services play in improving
the quality of lives for ordinary people, and the levers for the
economy and how they are used to create decent jobs, tackle
low pay and end poverty.
The future of public services was debated across the media, local
communities and families in Scotland. It clearly weighed on the
minds of most as they casted their vote in this referendum.
Their message has been clear. People value public services; they
want more investment not more cuts; they reject privatisation
and they demand that public services remain in public hands. They
also want a new fairer more equal society.
I want to thank our members for the role they have played in
this whole process, and to recognise the humour and respect with
which this debate has been conducted within UNISON. I think this
has been reflected in the debate across Scotland more generally.
UNISON, as Scotland's biggest trade union, takes its responsibility
to support constructive debate very seriously. We will work to
continue the extra-ordinary political engagement we have seen
to press our agenda to build better public services that improve
the quality of all our lives and to build the just and fairer
society that so many of us are calling for.
Our role now is to work with other trade unions and civic society
to help bring Scotland together. We will expect that the promises
of more powers made by the main parties in Better Together will
be delivered. However as we stated at the beginning of the referendum
campaign the real question is how new or indeed existing powers
are to be used for the benefit of working people.
This work continues on 15 and 18 October when UNISON will join
the STUC and Poverty Alliance conference and rally as part the
Challenge Poverty Week, when trade union members from across Scotland
are coming together to say it’s now time to create a just
and fairer Scotland.
19 September 2014
What kind of Scotland do we want to see? A Fairer Scotland
28 February 2013
Scotland and devolution
UNISON calls for fresh powers to create a fairer Scotland
With this document, UNISON Scotland opens up a debate
which has so far focused on fiscal issues and argues that new
devolved powers for the Scottish parliament are essential to create
a Fairer Scotland and improve the lives of working people.
UNISON Scotland says a range of fresh powers should be devolved:
public sector pensions, health and safety, labour market regulation
and broadcasting - as well as stronger fiscal powers, including
all of income tax revenue.
30 November 2012
A Fairer Scotland: UNISON's contribution to the referendum debate
A Fairer Scotland: some key questions
UNISON's approach to constitutional questions is driven by the
interests of our members, by the sort of Scotland we want and
deserve to live in.
This means that for us, precise constitutional arrangements are
the end point and not the starting point of the debate.
We must first define the sort of Scotland we wish to see and
then try and then examine the likelihood of differing constitutional
arrangements on offer to deliver on that vision.
Our role is not to promote or condemn the politics of national
identity, Scottish or British. We should not accept at face value
any of the claims from any side of the constitutional debate.
Our role is to examine assertions made by all sides in the constitutional
debate, to get them to spell out what their proposals mean for
We also start from the reality of the Scotland we live in today.
As the Christie Commission put it: 'This country is a paradoxical
tapestry of rich resources, inventive humanity, gross inequalities,
and persistent levels of poor health and deprivation.'
Our objective is tackling inequalities, poor health and deprivation.
Doing so is social change and unless it is explained how this
is to be achieved, arguments for or against constitutional change
mean very little.
Getting a Fairer Scotland
Here are a few questions that matter. You might want to put these
to anyone looking for your support...
What will you do to keep services public and maintain standards?
RIGHTS AT WORK
What sort of rights should people have at work - and what will
you do to improve them?
JOBS & THE ECONOMY
What will you do to create full employment?
What will you do to make Scotland a more equal place?
Update - 25 November 2012
STUC interim consultation report published
A Just Scotland interim report pdf
A Just Scotland press release
A Just Scotland lays out challenges for both sides of the
debate. In particular it criticises the use of misleading figures
in the debate over Scotland’s fiscal position. The report
identifies deep problems with the economic and fiscal model imagined
by the leading voices in the YES Campaign. However it also calls
on the Better Together parties to outline a practical vision of
how social and economic justice can achieved within the union
and to calls for detailed attention to be paid to proposals for
15 October 2012
Referendum timetable following agreement signed between
the Scottish and UK governments on Monday 15 October 2012
OCTOBER 2012 - Section 30 agreed on transferring legal power to
hold the referendum from Westminster to Holyrood.
LATE 2012 - Electoral Commission begins its preparations, such
as examining the issue of a fair question on whether Scotland
leaves the UK.
FEBRUARY 2013 - Section 30 order receives backing of the Privy
SPRING 2013 - Referendum bill comes before the Scottish Parliament
OCTOBER 2013 -The Referendum bill passes its final stage at Holyrood,
a certainty, given the SNP’s overall majority.
NOVEMBER 2013 - The Referendum bill receives Royal Assent.
NOVEMBER 2013 - The Scottish Government publishes white paper
on independence, which is expected to attempt to answer questions
about membership of the European Union and defence of the nation.
Unionist parties and the UK government say they will publish regular
documents setting out the benefits of the Union.
SUMMER 2014 - Referendum campaign officially begins.
END OF 2014 - Latest date referendum can be held.
(from article in Scotsman 15 October 2012 - Scottish
independence: Alex Salmond given to end of 2014 for referendum)
20 August 2012
UNISON members are taking part in the constitutional debate through
meetings across the country ahead of to STUC community events.
This is the next stage in a process that started with a briefing,
discussion paper and workshops at the union’s Scottish Council
of branches. UNISON Scotland’s approach to constitutional questions
is one that is driven by the interests of our members, by the
sort of Scotland we want and deserve to live in.
This means that for us constitutional arrangements are the end
point of the debate not the starting point. We must first define
the sort of Scotland we wish to see and then try and then examine
the likelihood of differing constitutional arrangements to deliver
on that vision.
To support this approach UNISON Scotland published a briefing
on constitutional change (Feb 2012 - pdf) on constitutional
change together with a more detailed discussion paper for branches.
Based on the views received, we made a response to both the UK
government consultations (Mar 2012 - pdf) on the
In April, Scottish Council considered what a UNISON vision for
Scotland should look like. Workshops also looked at what independence
might mean for UNISON members as well as what further powers we
might want devolved to Scotland. These views have contributed
to this draft
UNISON ‘Vision for a Fairer Scotland’ (Aug 2012 - pdf).
The next stage of the process is to encourage a wider engagement
with members across Scotland, in conjunction with an STUC initiative
to engage communities in the constitutional debate.
We are holding a series of UNISON meetings across Scotland the
week before the STUC events. Details are here Constitutional
Change Events - UNISON + STUC Autumn 2012 (pdf) -
check with your branches for more info and registration.
Announcing the meetings, UNISON Scotland Convener Lilian Macer
said: “Constitutional change will have huge implications for our
members. It is vital that UNISON Scotland is at the forefront
of the debate and our members get every opportunity to contribute
their views. “I would therefore urge members to come along to
Depute Convener Stephen Smellie gave an insight into the debate
at UNISON’s National Conference in June: “It is not about where
the political power is held - Edinburgh or London - but what the
politicians will do with that power, and how it will make a difference
to our security of employment or our children’s future”, he told