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National Delegate Conference Bournemouth 19-22 June 2012

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Resources to support devolution

Stephen Smellie

Stephen Smellie
Gordon McKay
Gray Allan
Gordon McKay
Gray Allan

Devolution took centre stage at National Conference, as delegates agreed a call from Scotland to review the devolution protocols and recognised the need to support devolved bargaining with additional resources and appropriate procedures.

Crucially, it also agreed support for UNISON in Scotland to engage members in the constitutional debate to ensure the union reflects the views of Scottish members.

Moving the motion, Stephen Smellie, Scotland Regional delegate pointed out that devolution has resulted in different policies and laws in the four nations. UNISON’s devolution protocols were created to ensure that we were able to adapt to this in each country and represent our members effectively in separate bargaining arrangements and with separate parliaments – dealing with different issues, media and expectations. The SNP government’s independence referendum poses new challenges.

“We are clear about the kind of Scotland we want – more equal, fairer, full employment, properly funded public services, no nuclear weapons – the same as the rest of you. The question for us is will independence or the status quo or more devolution short of independence make it more likely we will achieve our vision.”

It was 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.

“We are determined that this debate needs to be brought to our people and must address the issues of our members and how we look after our people, and not just about a flag or powers for politicians,” said Stephen, calling for resources to ensure the full engagement of members.

Gordon McKay, for the NEC warned that devolution has moved on and the union needed to move with it.

“The principle of devolution is about being closer to the people we represent, but the practice of devolution should be about ensuring that the powers that go with it are used for the benefit of our members.”

It was important that campaigning, bargaining and decision making were made at the appropriate place and where our members relate to – sometimes that will be the UK and sometimes the devolved nations.

“The commitment from the NEC is not just to review funding and procedures, but that increased funding will be made available and all our procedures will support devolved bargaining,” promised Gordon.

He added that the NEC and the UK union will not walk away from the constitutional debate in Scotland “as the outcome will affect all of our members, not just in Scotland, but that debate will be led by UNISON Scotland and the final decisions will be that of our members.”

Falkirk’s Gray Allan welcomed the motion but warned that the constitutional debate was a complex issue, loaded down with history and laced with sentiment and we needed to be ice cold in considering the only question that mattered, “Where do the interests of our members and of all working people lie?”

He told conference that the interests of our members across all the nations in the UK are the same – that what unites us is the common history of our movement.

“Putting football and rugby aside, between public service workers across the UK there can be no barriers, no boundaries and no divides,” said Gray.






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Bournemouth International Centre