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Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland
Modernising the System
Scottish Executive Consultation Paper

UNISON Scotland Comments


UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation document "Appointments to Public Bodies - Modernising the System". We are the country's largest union with 145,000 members in Scotland, many of whom are employed by the public bodies affected by the proposals.

Whilst we welcome the Scottish Executive's commitment to review the public appointments system in Scotland we believe that a more fundamental review is required into public bodies themselves and their relationship to the Scottish Executive, Scottish Parliament and local government. We believe that the guiding principle in any such review is that public bodies should be subject to democratic accountability and scrutiny.

Answers to Specific Questions


Do you think that the objectives set out in the Chapter are the right ones?

UNISON Scotland broadly agrees with the objectives set. Before we can widen representation on public appointments, however, the Scottish Executive needs to look at the reasons for under representation of frequently excluded groups.

The reasons are many and complex and are related to the institutional discrimination inherent within both the Scottish Executive and the public bodies. UNISON Scotland believes that positive action and a nurturing culture would assist those groups currently under represented.

We have two comments about the fifth objective. Firstly, we believe that it is not just women, people from ethnic minorities and people with disabilities who are under represented in public bodies. We suspect other groups such as younger people, lesbian and gay people, and people from low income backgrounds and non traditional education are also under-represented and it should be an objective of the Scottish Executive to improve their representation. Secondly, we believe this objective could be stronger.

The Executive should not just be encouraging people to apply for public bodies but taking appropriate action to "ensure" such groups are represented.

Are any more important than others?

UNISON Scotland believes that the last two objectives should take overriding importance: to ensure a wider range of people to be represented in public bodies and to ensure accessibility to applicants to public bodies and to those who serve on them.


Do you agree with the measures that the Executive intend to take to promote service on public bodies to a wider audience?

UNISON Scotland agrees with the range of measures the Scottish Executive is proposing to advertise and promote service on public bodies.

We particularly welcome proposals for additional information and briefing awareness sessions to help these groups to understand and therefore be empowered to pursue public appointments.

In what other ways do you think the system could be made more accessible and attractive to potential candidates?

The venues where publicly appointed committees meet should be accessible to disabled people. Times of meeting should be varied to encourage maximum participation and child care/carers expenses should be available prior to meetings taking place. Adverts for Public Appointment should be placed as widely as possible in various community languages as well as being made available in alternative formats. Community of interest papers and magazines should also be used.

Do you think that the targets set by Scottish Executive Ministers for diversifying membership of public bodies are appropriate?

UNISON Scotland believes that a targets system is a second best solution.

If targets are to be used, however, then there should be targets for the number of trade unionists included. For too many years people from trade unions have been excluded from public bodies. Inclusion of trade unionists would help to address the under representation of people from different backgrounds. We also believe there is a powerful argument for having set aside trade union seats on public bodies to ensure effective partnership working.

We would advocate a system of positive action and the adoption of the principles of proportionality and fair representation.

In terms of gender we believe that women and men should be equally represented on public bodies.

In terms of black people, disabled people and lesbian and gay people we believe there are powerful arguments, in certain public bodies, for these groups to have reserved seats to ensure their voice is heard.

This is not an ideal solution but it would be progress on what we have at the moment and would be a step towards ensuring more representative public bodies.

Do you think that these are the right targets for achieving greater representation in public appointments?

If targets are to be used there should be mixture in the kinds of targets used.

There should be `across the board' targets (eg 50% of all bodies in a sector should be chaired by women) and there should be `specific' targets for each body (eg 50% of all board members should be women).

We believe that the composition of Children's panels should be considered separately as this skews the overall composition of public appointments.

If Children's Panels were excluded, what targets might be appropriate? Are there any other targets that you would like to see included?

See above. UNISON Scotland would also argue for targets for young people and for people from low income and non-traditional forms of education.

What are your views on payment for service on public bodies?

UNISON Scotland believes any system of payments should reinforce the public service ethos. There should be no disincentive to participating in public life and there needs to be fair compensation for any work undertaken

Should the type and level of payment - according to the type of body, the functions it carries out, or the size of the budget - be reviewed?

UNISON believes the current system of payments is arbitrary and inconsistent. We would advocate all posts being evaluated against set criteria before the type and level of payment is awarded.

What specific forms of compensation - such as child care costs - would you like to see being offered to members of the boards of public bodies?

UNISON Scotland believes that appropriate levels of payment for such things as child care and carers costs should be made available so that a person's caring responsibilities do not act as a barrier to participation in public bodies.


Do you think that the proportion of independent assessors on all appointment panels should be increased?

Yes. We believe there should always be one involved in the selection process.

Do you think that independent assessors should be drawn from a wider range of people?

Yes. We believe that organisations like the STUC should have a role in nominating independent assessors.

Do you think changes are needed to the NHS system?

UNISON believes that in the long term a fundamental review of the NHS in Scotland is required with a much greater democratic element involved in relation to the composition of NHS Trusts and health Boards.


Do you think that a Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments should be established?

We strongly support such a move.

If so, who do you think should be responsible for appointing a Scottish Commissioner?

The Scottish Executive should make a recommendation to the Scottish Parliament and it should be the subject of their approval.

Should the Commissioner be required to submit a regular audit to Parliament?


Could the Office of a Scottish Commissioner be combined with the office(s) of another Scottish regulatory body in a way that reduces the overall costs to the public purse?

UNISON would prefer to see a Commissioner having sole responsibility for public appointments rather than having his or her work diluted by having other responsibilities.


How do you think the Parliament should monitor and review public appointments made by the Scottish Ministers?

The Parliament should have a much more strengthened role in terms of appointments and should be able to hold confirmation hearings on proposed appointments for senior positions. The Parliament should have the power to accept or refer back appointments and to query current appointments where there is a perceived problem.

Do you believe that there would be merit in the Executive and Parliament developing proposals for post-appointment hearings along the lines described in the Chapter?

We would support hearings before appointments are confirmed.

For further information please contact:
Matt Smith
Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland 0141 442 0006 (phone)
14 West Campbell Street 0141 331 1203 (fax)
Glasgow G2 6RX

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