UNISON Scottish Retired Members Conference
Glasgow 28th April 2009
Eugene Duffy –Chairperson, opened
Conference 2009 by welcoming all delegates to our Scottish Conference.
He reported to conference on
the work of the Scottish Committee over the last year 
and assured conference that the committee were working hard
to promote all issues surrounding pensions, and care.
He spoke about Post Office closures
and how the campaign about the issue of post cards that was
carried out was successful, and that the Government had backed
down over this due to pressure exerted by campaigning groups.
He emphasised the struggle that
Post Offices are having to keep open, and stressed that we must
continue to keep this important service within the public domain.
There was a minutes silence as
a mark of respect for Jack Jones; to pay tribute to his contribution
as a staunch supporter, and fighter for, all pensioners.
Chair then spoke of the power
of the ‘grey vote’. He said the fight must continue, and we
must be heard. He stressed that delegates must take this message
away from conference with them, and back to their branches.October
will be an important month because there will be a Pensioner
Parliament – See the Person, not the Age. And we must have
a presence at this Conference. He said, now more than ever,
we must be aware of the attacks on pensions and pensioners care,
and that we must defend our rights on all pensioners’ issues.
Living Wills &
Power of Attorney
Jane Lindsay, assisted by Toni
Wong, attended conference on behalf of Thompson’s Solicitors,
to speak on Living Wills and Power of Attorney. Thompson’s had
a stall at Conference with leaflets and information, so that
Delegates could take this back to branches.
The speaker then gave detailed
information on both of those topics, stressing the importance
of getting your requests formally documented whilst you were
of sound mind and body. There was too much information to be
detailed in this report, but the general advice from Jane Lindsay
was that anyone who was interested should get in touch with
a solicitor, and discuss how they would go about setting up
Living Will or Power of Attorney. What the speaker did stress
all through her presentation was that these things should be
entered into seriously, and it was of utmost importance that
the correct person to carry out your requests, on your behalf,
John McAllion is a former
MP and constant Scottish Campaigner, who is now enjoying retirement.
Although retired, he is still very much involved with pensioner
He started his talk by quoting
a professor of economics who said ‘The future is not what it
used to be’. He went on to tell of a photograph taken in 1945
after that years’ election, which gave a huge victory to the
ordinary people, and showing huge crowds of people in the City
Square in Dundee [his home town].
He reminded us that was a time
when successive Governments created pensions, and the National
Health Service, and the country flourished. John McAllion compared
then to what has happened now and the effects of Capitalism
and free markets on us all now. He stated that the ordinary
man had been badly let down by Capitalism.
On the subject of Public Sector
Pensions Schemes, he is of the opinion that there is no more
of a brighter future for the Public Sector than anywhere else.
They are in the midst of huge difficulties and there is not
enough money for the pensioners of the future. We have incurred
the largest debt problem in any peace time government in decades.
This must inevitably lead to tax increases and pensions cuts.
There is a massive struggle ahead for the attacks that will
be made on pensions services. This fight must be for a liveable
pension above the poverty line, and keep up with the standards
of living. He stressed that it was crucial that pensioners must
stick together whether their pension is private or public sector.
He stated in his opinion we must
fight for other cuts from such Government projects as the huge
sums of money being spent on [for example] Trident. It is essential
that we involve ourselves with discussion and debate with the
Government; otherwise they will go ahead and make the decisions
without us, and to our cost. We must be part of the larger movement
that encompasses all ages, and keep solidarity.
When asked if the Labour Party
can be won back, Mr McAllion said only if they dissociate themselves
with the values that are now being presented by New Labour.
After a lively question and answer
session, Eugene Duffy thanked John McAllion for attending our
conference and for his frank and inspirational input.
Presentation to Irene Sweeney
[recently retired secretary to Scottish Committee]
Eugene Duffy paid tribute to
our recently retired Secretary to Scottish Committee Irene Sweeney.
He expressed the committees’ thanks and gratitude on behalf
of all the membership to Irene who has given many years as a
dedicated worker in the fight for pensioners, and a sterling
secretary to the Scottish Committee. He concluded by wishing
Irene all the very best on behalf of the Scottish Committee,
and the Retired Members.
Chair welcomed Sue Chalmers who
takes over as secretary to Scottish Committee for 2009. Once
again we are fortunate indeed to have a dedicated member of
the committee to fill the important task of Committee Secretary.
Sue was wished well in her new
position on the committee.
A presentation of flowers and
gifts from Scottish Committee Members was made to Irene, on
our behalf, by Lillie MacNaughton.
Chair welcomed our second guest to Conference.
Margo MacDonald was to speak
on her proposed bill on assisted suicide.
Eugene introduced her by first recognising
her contribution to politics and her notable career in Scottish
Parliament, and thanked her for taking time out of her busy
schedule to attend our Conference.
speaker began by stating that the purpose of a Bill or Law on
assisted suicide was to make it legal for the person concerned
to be able to make the choice. She stressed here that the only
person who could make this choice was the person themselves.
In our country, at the moment, choices are left with doctors
or carers, who must sometimes make choices which are illegal
and leave these people open to prosecution.
Margo MacDonald went on to explain that
although the law saying assisting people to die is illegal,
there are grey areas that do not assist in laying down clear
guidelines, but allow only leeway.
The only way in her opinion to discuss this in the Scottish Parliament
is through a Bill. Her Bill would only cover: Degenerate Conditions. Dependency
on others after an accident. Terminal illness.
These are the only groups she
would argue for in physician assisted dying. This bill is
about elderly people; or people who have a mental illness;
or dementia victims. There would be a register of doctors who
would volunteer to assist people.
Our speaker informed Conference
that she is now at the stage of drawing up the Bill with legal
authorities to ascertain the correct course of action.
Margo MacDonald finished by explaining
that even if only a small number of people would take up the
use this Bill, then it is their right to do so.
The question and answer session
that followed proved that this is a subject of concern for us
all, as individuals. There were many questions which are too
many to be reported, but were answered most expertly by the
Eugene Duffy thanked Margo MacDonald
for explaining so clearly the purposes of her Bill, on what
was clearly an emotive, but extremely important topic. He wished
her well with the Bill’s course through Parliament and thanked
her once again on behalf of Conference.
Eugene introduced our third speaker
It was decided that there be
a brief interlude in the formal proceedings of the day to listen
to Mae, as she recounted some of her memories of a Dundee childhood,
through her writings
This was very well received by
Chair thanked Mae Stewart for
her input into the proceedings.
Items of Interest for
Scottish Retired members
Bowling Tournament – 2009
The tournament will be held at
the Kettle Bowling Club in Fife. Bob Miller thanked Kettle
Club for yet again hosting this day, and said that they gave
members a very warm welcome [and good food], and that the membership
was very happy to continue using this venue.
Bob Miller spoke to Conference
about the annual bowling day that has been held for many years
now and has been proved to be a success year on year, and hoped
that as many as possible would inform their members through
their local branches about this years outing.
Our New Scottish Committee
Sue Chalmers spoke about being
the new secretary and the role she would be fulfilling on behalf
of the membership. She spoke about proposed motions to be taken
forward to National Conference this year in Scarborough. Finally
Sue wished Irene Sweeney well in her retirement, and wished
all members good health and well being for the coming year.
Chair Rounds up Conference.
Eugene Duffy [Chair] concluded
by urging delegates to go back to their branches and take the
message from Conference that we must stay at the forefront of
pensioner issues and guard our rights and pensions.
He spoke about the many points
that had been covered by this conference, and asked that we
build contacts between other groups retired, and working, to
protect our wages and pensions.
Eugene Duffy assured Conference
the 2009 committee would work tirelessly towards ensuring that
we are at the forefront of action and communications with anyone
who would assist us to guard our rights and pensions.
We fight on.