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Revitalise Principles and Briefings
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Revitalise Scotland's public services
Principles for Renewal
Financing Public Services
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Social Inclusion
21st Century Government
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Welcome to UNISONScotland's manifesto for public services

Matt SmithI am pleased to put before the people of Scotland UNISON's views on the future of Scottish public services. As we organise the people who provide our services, UNISON is in a unique position to comment.

Our members are both providers and consumers of services. We are only too aware of the failings in these services, failings caused by many years of underfunding and privatisation.

Revitalising our public services is an important function of our new Parliament. Indeed it is its most important function. Very few parties and politicians would disagree with that statement, but we believe our proposals will assist them in making this aim successful.

Here the people that deliver the services at the front-line tell what is required to revitalise our public services.

We will be circulating this manifesto to parties and candidates, to our members, to organisations, to the media and to civic society in Scotland. Like the draft manifesto published early in 2002, we welcome comments on this.

Please either write or e-mail to myself at

    UNISON House
    14, West Campbell Street
    Glasgow G2 6RX
    Tel 0845 355 0845
    e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

    yours sincerely

    Matt Smith
    Scottish Secretary

This manifesto is available in a variety of formats and on UNISONScotland's Website - www.unison-scotland.org.uk.

Please contact Chris Bartter, Communications Officer (address above or chris.bartter@unison.org.uk) to receive this in the most accessible way.



At a time when the future delivery of our public services is crucial, UNISONScotland is pleased to introduce its manifesto for public services in Scotland.

In this we set out our aim which is nothing less than a revitalisation of the public services in Scotland. Reform has often been called for by the Scottish Government and by political parties, but there is little evidence that there is any clear idea of what is needed to deliver this. Here we lay down the main principles. We have already circulated a draft of this manifesto to a wide range of organisations. We received many supportive responses, and have drawn heavily on them to produce this document. However the main themes and conclusions are UNISON's own and we will be campaigning on them during the Scottish Parliament Election Campaign and beyond.

We welcomed the Scottish Parliament and have continued to support it in its first steps towards governing our country. Scotland's public services were and are crucial to that support and it is now time to address their needs. We need to grasp the thistle of public service revitalisation, to accept that full renewal is much needed and to set out the principles that should be adopted.



Our last manifesto, Serving Scotland laid out three basic principles required to ensure the renewal of Scotland's hard-pressed public services.

  • Giving people a say in their services
  • Choosing quality services
  • Choosing teamwork

These were widely accepted and still underpin our approach to revitalising Scotland's public services. What is now required is for government to take clear and radical decisions to improve Scotland's services and to provide the infrastructure to enable it to happen.

Much argued for in our first manifesto has been delivered - the introduction of partnership working into the NHS; the return of the careers service into the public sector; the commitment to increase nursery and childcare provision, and the recognition of the role of the community and voluntary sector in delivering public services. UNISON particularly welcomes the strong commitment to lifelong learning, via workplace-based projects such as UNISON's Return to Learn, which improves the skills of people who have not benefited from formal education, and via trade unions through the Scottish University for Industry on specific work-based projects.

In other areas, while the aims of UNISON and of the Scottish Government have coincided, the final outcomes have either not yet been delivered, orhave fallen short. For example, both UNISON and the government apparently agree on the need to relieve councils of large housing debt burdens, but linking this to enforced Stock Transfer means that councils are being coerced to reduce tenants' choice of tenure.

In another example, whilst we all subscribe to partnership working that fully involves all the partners, partnership working in practice has sometimes belied those aims. Even in the NHS the partnership project has sometimes failed to involve all staff in all areas. In local government little progress on partnership has yet been made.

Finally, we appreciate that moves have been made to address low pay. We welcome the successes that UNISON has had in challenging low pay in Local Government and in the Health Service in particular, bringing thousands of staff above the £5 per hour figure for the first time. Whilst this is a step forward much more needs to be done to eradicate low pay. In particular we need to broaden the fight to many other public services - especially higher and further education and the voluntary sector, where low pay continues to affect staff, particularly women.


Revitalise Scotland's public services

We welcome additional funds made available to the Scottish Parliament and commitments from the government to renew public services. After years of decline, we could begin to seriously address service needs. However this will not be done without the provision of resources to support and develop renewed services. Funds going into the profits of private businesses are funds diverted away from public services. ‘Ring-fencing' special projects will often not get much needed cash to where it is most needed - to the hard-pressed front line services and the staff attempting to deliver them.

Returning to the old, failed private sector agenda is no answer to the problems of public services. Neither is creating an artificial divide between ‘consumers' of public services, and ‘providers' of those services. Apart from the fact that providers are also consumers, it ignores the real needs for successful renewal.

It is time to recognise that

  • There is a need to renew Scotland's public services
  • We must recognise the difference between public and private services
  • We must invest to revitalise public services

Public provision has a long and proud record in Scotland. More than the UK as a whole, the Scottish people have embraced the ideals of public service. They have consistently supported democratically accountable services, collectively financed, accessible to all no matter what their personal circumstances.

Public provision was important to ensure that the exploitation of service users by private providers was stopped. In the past, good quality housing, health and education services were only available to those who could afford to pay; and there were only either sporadic, charitable services or none at all for the poor.

Public services were created because people realised that collectively they could provide services that would be comprehensive, covering the whole population, regardless of their ability to pay; that could be delivered locally and react to the changing needs of a local community; and that would be provided more cheaply than comparable profit-driven services. These arguments are still true today.

The provision of decent health care, housing, welfare, education, cultural services and economic and other infrastructure such as water and sewerage services, has always been looked on as something that should be provided and controlled collectively - not areas that should be left to the vagaries of the market.

The history of why publicly run and publicly accountable services became necessary is clear. The challenge now is to build on that to meet the needs of Scotland today and tomorrow.

There is nothing modern or new about ‘rolling back' to the days of failed private, selective, outsourced, and uncoordinated services. It must be done by revitalising our services based on the best principles, responsive to the needs and wishes of the Scottish people.





© UNISONScotland 2003
Published by UNISONScotland,
UNISON House, 14 West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX. Tel 0141 332 0006