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Scottish Executive
Consultation on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill

UNISONScotland Response


UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on the consultation document on Ethical Standards in Public Life.

UNISON Scotland is the country's largest union with 100,000 of our members employed by Scottish local government.

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The New Ethical Framework
Codes of Conduct Local Government

UNISON welcomes the proposal to establish a new National Code of Conduct for local councillors.

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Relevant Public Bodies

UNISON supports the proposal for the Bill to cover both councillors and quango members.

UNISON believes the provisions should be extended to cover members of LECs, who distribute over £450 million of public money per annum.

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Duty of councils and relevant public bodies to assist members' to uphold the code
UNISON supports the flexible approach outlined in this section

Register of interests
UNISON supports the setting up of public registers of members interests.

UNISON believes that this register should be sufficient to ensure that local government staff are permitted to stand for election to local government. This would ensure that all councillors are treated equally with all potential interests recorded and made public.

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Standards Commission for Scotland & Investigations

UNISON believes that every council in Scotland should be required to set up a local Standards Committee. The committee should include representation from all political groups within the council and reflect overall political balance, subject to no one party having overall control.

UNISON does not see the need for all allegations of misconduct to be dealt with by the Standards Commission for Scotland.

UNISON believes that allegations against elected councillors should in the first instance be dealt with by their own Standards Committee which should have the primary role for investigating and dealing with the original complaint.

As a safeguard UNISON believes that the parties to the original complaint should all have the ability to ask that the case be reviewed by the new Scottish Standards Commission.

UNISON believes that a new Scottish Standards Commission should act as an appeal body, rather than one which carries out detailed investigations into local complaints. UNISON believes the system should operate on the principle of local councils putting their own houses in order, subject to individuals having the right of appeal to an external body such as a new Scottish Standards Commission.

UNISON believes that appointments to the Standards Commission should be made by the Scottish Ministers, after public advert, and from nominations received from individual councils, COSLA and other organisations such as the STUC.

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UNISON believes that all allegations against elected councillors should be processed by fair and transparent procedures which operate under the established rules of natural justice.

Sanctions - Local Government
UNISON is concerned that sanctions can be imposed on councillors without a right of appeal. This goes against natural justice.

Interim action
UNISON believes that the suspension of an elected councillor is a very serious matter which should only be used in the most exceptional circumstances.

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Repeal of Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986

UNISON welcomes the comments made in the consultation paper on the Scottish Executive's commitment to ensuring that "equal opportunity is at the heart of all policy making" and the recognition that the "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities are one such group of people in Scotland who are discriminated against and excluded throughout their lives as a result of their sexual orientation".

It is long past time that that the LGBT citizens of this country were seen as having civic rights as well as civic duties and that we should enjoy the same freedoms as other taxpayers and citizens to have our needs addressed by our elected representatives.

In addition to the points made in the paper we should like to point out that it simply is not possible to "promote homosexuality" in the sense of being able to turn people gay. However human sexual orientation is determined it is clearly not something that can be altered by sex education lessons in schools.

Some may argue that there are better things for the Parliament to be spending its time on but they are the ones who will occupy time and money in opposing this progressive step. Repealing this law is a simple straightforward step which should not take up a great deal of the Parliament's time.

It is important also that Section 2A should be repealed outright, not amended. Safeguards, prohibitions and professional guidance already in place help to protect young people from sexual abuse in schools and covers all types of abuse. The idea that "homosexuals" form a particular threat which requires additional safeguards is unfounded and discriminatory.

This legislation is highly discriminatory and actively harms young people by denying them the advice and information they need to take a responsible attitude to sex and sexuality. It encourages bullying and attacks the self-esteem of young gay men and lesbians and those perceived to be gay or lesbian. It denies councils the ability to help a minority fight discrimination and is incompatible with the Government's Social Inclusion agenda.

The Executive has indeed taken a progressive step with this proposal and we hope that it will continue to promote equality by producing laws which are neutral in terms of sexual orientation.

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For further information please contact:

Matt Smith
Scottish Secretary
14 West Campbell Street
G2 6RX
0141 332 0006

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