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Inquiry into the Public Petitions Process - Response to the Call for Written Evidence

The UNISON Scotland Submission to the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee on their call for written evidence for their Inquiry into the Public Petitions Process

September 2008


UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the call for written evidence from the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee on their Inquiry into the Public Petitions Process. UNISON Scotland has over 160,000 members in Scotland, most of whom work in the public sector across Scotland.

General Comments

UNISON Scotland has only used the Public Petitions process on a few occasions but at all times have found the process highly accessible and easy to use.We believe the Scottish Parliament should be proud of its initiative in setting up a comprehensive process for individuals, communities and other organisations to gain access to the Scottish Parliament and enable issues to be put on the political agenda, when there was not necessarily any other route open to them.This creates an opportunity for the Parliament to be seen as open and democratic and available to all.UNISON has answered the questions posed in the call for evidence, but because our experiences have been helpful and positive, we have not made many suggestions on how the process could be improved.


Responses to Questions Section 1 - Investigate, identify and implement measures to improve awareness of, access to, and participation in the public petitions process
  • Are you aware of the existence of the Parliament's public petitions process?
  • How did you find out about it?
UNISON has been aware of the Public Petitions committee since the inception of the Scottish Parliament.
  • Would you say you found this easy or difficult?
UNISON has used the Scottish Parliament website on a regular basis for many years and have found the Public Petitions Committee very easy to access.
  • How do you think we might improve awareness of the petitions system?
Greater publicity of some outcomes of petitions, examples of the effects petitions have had on communities or individuals could be included in, say, a newsletter attached to the website, including in the News pages. Better media coverage both of the process and of the outcomes should be considered. Consideration should also be given to the provision of information both about the process and the outcomes in public places, e.g. public libraries, education institutions, etc.
  • In terms of the material produced about the petitions system, do you think this is helpful, understandable and easily accessible?
Yes the material available on the website is helpful, understandable and easily accessible
  • What improvements do you think we could make to the information we make available about the petitions process?
UNISON believes that the information provided is very helpful and adequate for individuals and organisations' needs; therefore, we do not think any improvement is necessary.
  • What other information do you think we should provide and why?
See above - more information on outcomes of petitions should be available on the website, perhaps in the form of newsletters. Also, more information on progress of petitions would be helpful, perhaps like the progress report on Bills passing through the Parliament.
  • In terms of information, has anything hindered your access to, or participation in, the public petitions process?

UNISON has used the petitions process on a number of occasions, and has been able to gain any required access to the process. We have had very good experiences in our dealing with the process and believe it to be an important tool for bringing issues to the political agenda.

Section 2 - Identify and implement initiatives to assist in the effective and efficient processing of petitions, including what role ICT can play

  • How can the processing of petitions be improved?
Whilst as stated above, UNISON has not found difficulty in accessing the process, it has sometimes taken quite a time until the petition is considered, it would be helpful to examine ways of speeding up the process.
  • What further methods could the Public Petitions Committee implement to process petitions more effectively?
Publicising the e-petition process would give greater access to individuals and organisations to have a say on current petitions.
  • What role can ICT play in making the processing of petitions more effective and efficient?
UNISON welcomes the introduction of the e-petition which gives much greater access to both the process and the ability to become involved with petitions currently undergoing scrutiny.
  • In relation to e-petitions, how can the Scottish Parliament's e-petitions procedure be enhanced?
The e-petitions procedure could be more prominently highlighted on the website. However, having said this, the process is very comprehensive and simple to use.
  • What additional features would you like to see on the e-petitions website?
UNISON does not believe there needs to be any other features utilised.
Section 3 - Investigate existing methods of scrutiny of petitions and implement new methods or practices to further improve scrutiny
  • What are your views on the current methods of scrutiny that are used by the Public Petitions Committee?
UNISON believes that the current methods of scrutiny are adequate. We appreciate that the process is a key part of the Parliament's commitment to democracy, openness and accessibility, by allowing individuals, communities and other organisations to raise issues of public concern, enabling them to participate in the democratic process. As stated above, we have only had positive experiences of the process.
  • What further initiatives and methods could the Public Petitions Committee use to improve the scrutiny of petitions?
Other than considering ways to speed up the process, UNISON does not believe any further measures are needed.
  • From your experience as a petitioner, what would you like to have seen done differently?
As stated above, UNISON's experiences of using the Public Petitions process have been very positive. There are no specific initiatives we could suggest that would improve the process
  • What do you think worked well and how do we improve that further?

UNISON was happy with how the process worked on the occasions we have used it as it enabled us to have issues important to our members fed into the political agenda. Other than the timescale, we do not have any further suggestions to make.

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Fax 0141-331 1203

For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser - Policy

Diane Anderson, Information Development Officer diane.Anderson@unison.co.uk
0141 342 2842



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