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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide



Matt Smith
Scottish Secretary

Mike Kirby
Scottish Convener



The establishment of a Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive had major implications for UNISON Scotland.

From 1 July 1999 full legislative, administrative and financial powers for Scotland's public services have been devolved from UK to Scotland.

This paper sets out: (See Index above for hyperlinks)

  1. The split in the powers and responsibilities of the Westminster and Edinburgh Parliaments.
  2. The size and composition of the Scottish Parliament.
  3. Scottish Cabinet and Ministers.
  4. Scottish Parliament Committees.
  5. Scottish Executive's Legislative Programme.
  6. Scotland's Financial Arrangements.
  7. Recent UNISON Scotland responses to Scottish Executive consultation documents.
  8. Challenges and opportunities for influencing the public policy making process.
  9. Steps taken to respond to the public policy challenge at a lay and full time level.
  10. Implications for collective bargaining in Scotland.


1. Powers and Responsibilities

The Scotland Act 1998 specifies the division in powers between the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

Westminster retains the power for foreign affairs, defence, macroeconomics, social security policy, employment matters, immigration, and the British constitution

All other law making powers as well as administrative and financial responsibility have transferred to the Scottish Parliament for:

  • local government
  • health and community care
  • housing
  • social work
  • education and children
  • lifelong learning including further and higher education
  • training
  • criminal justice
  • industry and enterprise
  • voluntary sector
  • environment
  • transport
  • agriculture and fisheries
  • sport
  • arts and culture

  • rural affairs

  • social inclusion

  • finance

This means that for almost all UNISON members the decisions taken by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament are the ones which affect them directly as employees.


2. Size and Composition of Scottish Parliament

    There are 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs):

    ¨ 73 are elected in constituency seats using first past the post

    ¨ 56 are elected from regional party lists - 7 from each of the eight European constituencies - to ensure a more proportional outcome

    Voters receive two ballot papers: one for their constituency MSP and one for their regional list MSP.

    At the Scottish General Election on 6 May 1999 the result was a hung parliament leading to a Labour/Lib Dem coalition:

    Scottish Labour Party 56 seats

    Scottish National Party 35 seats

    Scottish Conservative and Unionists 18 seats

    Scottish Liberal Democrats 17 seats

    Others 3 seats

    The others included a Green, a Scottish Socialist and Dennis Canavan.

    There have been three by-elections since 1999 resulting in one additional Tory MSP and one less Labour MSP.

    Around 40% of the MSPs are women including over 50% of Labour MSPs.


    There are at least 17 MSPs who are UNISON members: 12 Labour, 4 SNP and one independent.

    Labour: Jackie Baillie, Scott Barrie, Malcolm Chisholm, Rhoda Grant, Janis Hughes, Karen Gillon, Margaret Jamieson, Andy Kerr, Marilyn Livingston, Henry McLeish, Cathie Peattie, Allan Wilson.

    SNP: Michael Matheson, Richard Lochhead, Kay Ullrich, Shona Robison.

    Independent: Dennis Canavan

    UNISON APF has established a Labour Group of MSPs and the union has had regular meetings with UNISON MSPs from other parties.


3. Scottish Cabinet and Ministers

The leader of the Scottish Parliament is the First Minister who is elected by the whole Parliament. The First Minister recommends the appointment of Scottish Executive Ministers and these are approved by the Parliament.

The Scottish Cabinet is made up of 11 members and these are shown in bold below. The full list of Ministries in the Scottish Executive is as follows:

First Minister

Henry McLeish MSP

Head of the Scottish Executive. With the Deputy First Minister, responsible for the development, implementation and presentation of policies.


Deputy First Minister and Minister for Justice

Jim Wallace QC MSP

Responsible for Home Affairs, including civil law and criminal justice, criminal justice social work services, police, fire, prisons and courts, law reform, land reform policy and freedom of information.

Deputy Minister for Justice

Iain Gray MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Justice with special responsibility for land reform and co-ordination of Executive policy in relation to drugs.


Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs

Jack McConnell MSP

Responsible for pre-school and school education, children and young people. Supports the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in external relations, especially development and implementation of links with Europe.

Deputy Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs

Nicol Stephen MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs.


Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning

Wendy Alexander MSP

Responsible for the Economy, Business and Industry including Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, tourism, trade and inward investment, further and higher education, the science base and e-commerce, Digital Scotland, lifelong learning, training and the delivery of the new deal.

Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning and Gaelic

Alasdair Morrison MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning with responsibility for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of the Highlands and Islands, tourism and Gaelic.


Minister for Finance and Local Government

Angus MacKay MSP

Responsible for the Scottish Budget, European structural funds, local government (including finance), 21st Century Government encompassing e-government, Modernising Government and Civil Service Reform. Supports the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in oversight of the Executive's central functions.

Deputy Minister for Finance and Local Government

Peter Peacock MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Finance and Local Government.



Minister for Health and Community Care

Susan Deacon MSP

Responsible for health policy, the National Health Service in Scotland, community care, and food safety.

Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care

Malcolm Chisholm MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Health and Community Care.


Minister for Parliament

Tom McCabe MSP

Responsible for Parliamentary Affairs and the management of Executive business in the Parliament and Parliamentary Liaison. Supports the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in the co-ordination of Executive policy, management of cross-cutting priorities and overseeing strategic communications.

Deputy Minister for Parliament

Euan Robson

Deputy to the Minister for Parliament. Particular responsibility for the Parliamentary handling of the legislative programme and management of cross-cutting priorities. Liberal Democrat Business Manager


Minister for Environment and Rural Development

Ross Finnie MSP

Responsible for policy in relation to the environment and to rural development including agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Deputy Minister for Rural Development

Rhona Brankin MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Rural Development.


Minister for Social Justice

Jackie Baillie MSP

Responsible for social inclusion and housing, equality issues and the voluntary sector.

Deputy Minister for Social Justice

Margaret Curran MSP

Deputy to the Minister for Social Justice.



Minister for Transport and Planning

Sarah Boyack MSP

Responsible for roads and transport.



Deputy Minister for Transport and Planning

Lewis MacDonald MSP

Deputy Minister for Sport, the Arts and Culture

Allan Wilson MSP

Responsible for sport, the arts, culture, architecture and the built heritage.

The Law Officers are Colin Boyd QC (Lord Advocate) and Neil Davidson (Solicitor General).


4. Scottish Parliament Committees

The Scottish Parliament has established a range of Committees which are more powerful and proactive than the Committees of the Westminster Parliament.

They fulfil the functions of both Westminster Standing and Select Committees and are able to consider major policy issues, hold Ministers and public agencies to account, and scrutinise draft legislation. A key difference is that Scottish Parliament Committees are able to initiate legislation.

The Committees are expected to liase closely with local government, trade unions, business, civic bodies, community organisations etc. Their role is particularly crucial in terms of pre legislative scrutiny.

The allocation of Committee Chairs is broadly in line with the share of MSPs a Party has in the Parliament.

The full Scottish Parliament Committee list:

Audit Committee

Convener Andrew Welsh (Scottish National Party)

Education, Culture and Sport Committee

Convener Karen Gillon (Labour)

Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee

Convener Alex Neil (Scottish National Party)

Equal Opportunities Committee

Convener Kate Mclean (Labour Party)

European Committee

Convener Hugh Henry (Labour Party)

Finance Committee

Convener Mike Watson (Labour Party)

Health and Community Care Committee

Convener Margaret Smith (Liberal Democrat Party)

Justice 1

Convener Alasdair Morgan (Scottish National Party)

Justice 2

Convener Pauline McNeil (Labour Party)

Local Government Committee

Convener Trish Godman (Labour Party)

Procedures Committee

Convener Murray Tosh (Conservative Party)

Public Petitions Committee

Convener John McAllion (Labour Party)

Rural Development Committee

Convener Alex Johnstone (Conservative)

Social Justice Committee

Convener Johann Lamont (Labour)

Standards Committee

Convener Mike Rumbles (Liberal Democrat Party)

Subordinate Legislation Committee

Convener Kenny MacAskill (Scottish National Party)

Transport and the Environment Committee

Convener Andy Kerr (Labour Party)


5. Scottish Parliament Legislative Programme

The Scottish Executive is operating to an agenda based on the Partnership for Scotland agreement drawn up between the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. This was the basis for the coalition formed shortly after the 1999 elections.

In the first year of the parliament Bills were enacted covering:

  • Land reform
  • National Parks
  • Abolition of the feudal system of land tenure
  • Incapable adults
  • Transport
  • Local Government (ethical standards)
  • Improvement in Scottish education
  • Financial procedures and auditing

In the current parliamentary session the following legislation is being introduced:

  • Housing Bill
  • Graduate Endowment Bill
  • Evidence (Sex Offences) Bill
  • ECHR Bill
  • International Criminal Court Bill
  • Regulation of Care Bill
  • Budget Bill


6. Financial Arrangements

  • The Scottish Executive & Parliament are broadly financed on the same basis as the former Scottish Office.
  • The total Scottish budget is £18.3 billion in 2000/01 rising to £22.1 billion in 2003/04 and covers expenditure for all Scotland's devolved public services.
  • Almost 50% of the budget goes on public sector pay, the great bulk of which (over 90%) is spent on local government and NHS pay.
  • An annual expenditure statement and budget is prepared by the Scottish Executive and is subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
  • The amount of financial support to the Scottish Executive and Parliament is determined by the Barnett formula that is, a block grant plus a share of identifiable UK expenditure, variable according to population in Scotland.
  • The Parliament is able to vary the basic rate of income tax by up to 3p in the pound - this could raise approximately £690 million per year in total. In addition Council Tax raises £1.6 billion and non domestic rates £1.6 billion. Therefore the total that the Scottish Executive could raise is currently £4 billion per year.
  • The Parliament also has the power to revue and implement other forms of local taxation such as road tolls, tourists taxes etc.


7. Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament Committee Consultation Documents

The Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament Committees produces a range of Government documents, many of which are responded to by UNISON Scotland.

Among the key documents UNISON Scotland has responded to recently are:

  • Scottish Executive Consultation on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill
  • Repeal of Section 28
  • The Scottish Compact with the Voluntary Sector in Scotland

All responses are posted on the UNISON Scotland web site.

Examples of recent responses are also on the web site.


8. Influencing the Public Policy Making Process

The new devolved political institutions of government present a range of opportunities and challenges for UNISON Scotland in influencing the public policy making process in Scotland.

We are seeking to maximise our influence through:

  • Meetings with Ministers of the Scottish Executive.
  • Presentations to Scottish Parliament Committees
  • Participating in membership of Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament Committee expert panels and consultative forums.
  • Developing links with individual MSPs and with all political parties in the Parliament.
  • Discussions with the Scottish Executive on service group issues eg through the Scottish Joint Council and NHS Partnership Forum.
  • Developing our links with Scottish Executive civil servants including Special Advisers.
  • Inputting to pre-legislative scrutiny.
  • Responding to Government consultation documents.
  • Supporting policy development in think tanks such as the Centre for Scottish Public Policy.
  • Using membership of civic bodies such as the Scottish Civic Forum to build alliances and coalitions with civic Scotland, including user groups.
  • Using the opportunity to present petitions and initiate debates.
  • Working with the STUC and colleagues in other unions on issues of common concern.
  • Linking up with the UNISON APF Group of MSPs which includes a dozen MSPs including leading Cabinet Members. And through the Scottish Labour Party's Scottish Policy Forum, local policy forums and Scottish Conference.
  • Having a high media profile for UNISON as the lead spokesperson for Scotland's public services

In the run up to the 1999 Scottish General Election and beyond UNISON launched Serving Scotland A Manifesto for Scotland's Public Services and a series of accompanying Minifestos on Promoting Equality, Women, Funding Public Services, etc. Serving Scotland was a positive campaign aimed at setting the agenda for the new Parliament and promoting public services.


9. Steps taken to rise to the challenge

Within the limited resources at our disposal UNISON Scotland has sought to address the opportunities and challenges of devolution at both a lay and staff level.

Structural changes include:

Policy Pools

The Scottish Committee has revised and streamline its policy-making procedures in Scotland in order to effectively input to the work of the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament. It has set up policy pools in the following areas:

Public Finances


Communities (local government, social inclusion, housing & voluntary)

Equal Opportunities

Health and Community Care

Children, education, culture and sport

Enterprise and Lifelong Learning

Transport and Environment and Rural Affairs

The remit of the Policy Pools is follows:

  • Monitor the work of Scottish Ministers and Committees
  • Consider UNISON Scotland policy
  • Communicate and consult regularly with Branches, Service Groups, Self Organised Groups and the various parts of the organisation
  • Report to the Scottish Committee and Service Groups
  • Liase directly with the appropriate Minister and/or Committee

Members of the Policy Pools have been drawn from the Scottish Committee, Service Groups, Self Organised Groups etc. The composition of the pools varies according to the workload of each and they are serviced by a member of the Scottish Management Team.

They operate on the principle of consensus and are subordinate to the processes in rule ie the Scottish Council, Scottish Committees, Service Groups etc. They facilitate and co-ordinate policy development by circulating drafts and heading papers for comment.

Policy and Information Team

The emergence of the Scottish Government has also prompted a review of the way in which UNISON Scotland organises its staff.

A Policy and Information Team has been set up which has the role of co-ordinating the union's work around public policy making in relation to the new Parliament and Executive. It produces a weekly Scottish Parliament News which is circulated to Policy Pool members and placed on the UNISON Scotland web site..

The team will also provides practical assistance to negotiators at a Scottish and local level.

The Policy and Information Team includes our Scottish Research Officer, Scottish Communications Officer, Scottish Information Development Officer, Scottish Legal Officer and Scottish Women's Officer, Organising Assistant and secretarial staff.


10. Impact on Collective Bargaining in Scotland

There are major implications for pay and related matters. Of the Parliament's available budget of some £18.3 billion, almost 50% ends up in public sector pay.

Local Government

Pay and conditions are now determined by the autonomous Scottish Joint Council for Local Government Employees and there is a new Scottish National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service covering

  • pay and grading
  • working time
  • leave
  • part-time workers
  • health and safety
  • training
  • sickness
  • equalities
  • maternity provision
  • car allowances etc.

Separate pay claims are submitted and separate pay awards made. In 1999/2000 local government staff in Scotland received a 3.3% pay increase more than colleagues elsewhere in the UK. Last year there was protracted industrial action which resulted in a 14.2% award over a 4 year period.

There are also separate Scottish negotiations for water and sewerage staff, craft workers, chief officials and teachers.


The White Paper 'Scotland's Parliament' and the Scotland Act 1998 supported devolution of pay and conditions within the National Health Service in Scotland. Although this has been possible in principle the practise so far has been for pay awards in Scotland to follow those elsewhere in the UK.

Since the 1997 there have been new initiatives such as the NHS Scottish Partnership Forum, involving employers and unions in Scotland. The remit of the NHS Scottish Partnership Forum includes:

  • equal opportunities
  • health and safety
  • familly friendly policies)
  • education and training
  • performance
  • approach to employment legislation ( EC legislation, Fairness at Work)
  • best practice
  • partnership and involvement of staff in decision making processes.

Higher and Further Education

There have been significant changes to the structure of higher and further education in Scotland in recent years. The Government have created the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) and the Scottish Further Education Funding Council (SFEFC). These changes will inevitably impact on the bargaining arrangements in the longer term


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Further Information

This briefing was produced in June 2001 and so the personnel (eg ministers etc) will be out of date as will the legislative programme.

However, the other general issues and factors regarding working with Parliamentary and Executive structures remain the same.

For up to date information on who's who in the Parliament, see: