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Revitalise Principles and Briefings
Manifesto Index
Welcome and Index
Revitalise Scotland's public services
Principles for Renewal
Financing Public Services
Staffing Protocol
Public Service Networks
Lifelong Learning
Social Inclusion
21st Century Government
Joint Future
Local Government
Police Services
Higher and Further Education
Community & Voluntary Sector

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Local Government

carerUNISONScotland believes that an elected tier of government at local level, representing the views of the community and determining and delivering quality public services, is essential for the people of Scotland.

Many of the Government's priorities in local government are also UNISON's aims. The joined-up working epitomised in the Joint Future discussions, an expanding early years education, and the acceptance of the principle of a ‘Power of Wellbeing' for local government are all welcome developments.

However they still require careful consideration and consultation with service deliverers and users if they are to be successful. The track record of partnership discussions with staff representatives has not been good in many areas of local government. This must change if important and necessary reforms are to be implemented. It is now time to ensure that those who will require to deliver the service in local authorities are brought on board.

The Local Government Act goes some way to addressing concerns from local service users and service providers alike. The power of wellbeing will assist councils to intervene positively in their area, and community planning will assist in taking into account the needs of the local people.

We welcome the recognition of the need to increase the ability of councils to borrow by abolishing Section 94 constraints. This will assist in giving them a real choice of sources for funding new facilities - rather than ‘the only game in town' of PFI/PPP. It will free up council borrowing, and increase their ability to react flexibly to changing service demand. However it will not be sufficient on its own. We must also create a level playing field for the award of government grants, ensuring that PPP/PFI projects do not continue to receive the preferential treatment they currently enjoy.

Partnership working with the voluntary sector has been a feature of local government and we recognise the provision of services by such partnership arrangements where it is identified as being the most appropriate method.

The government should encourage quality services, by monitoring and promoting best practice. We support the plan for councils to have the lead role in community planning. UNISON believes that a form of proportional representation that continues the links between elected councillors and their local electorate would be a fairer system and would help bring back legitimacy to local elections. Removing the democratic deficit that debars a large section of the population from taking a full part in our local democracy would also help. Staff in local government should be able to stand for election to councils.

Best Value, too requires changes. UNISON welcomed the move away from competitive tendering, but unless there is to be a change to the ‘cheapest is best' attitude, Best Value will not be delivered. We want to see clear guidelines that base Best Value in quality service provision, training and resource provision, not cost alone. We want to deliver high quality services. To do this we must play a full partnership role. We propose a consultative Quality Forum to oversee continuous improvement through Best Value, and ensure quality is delivered. A fair employment agenda is also needed to ensure that the workforce is treated fairly and is not subject to exploitation.

The use of the private finance route to fund service developments means that many developments are far from satisfactory. Problems like the poor quality of work in Glasgow's schools PFI, the lack of flexibility in facilities management contracts and the persistent failings of the trunk roads maintenance contractors - in some cases the same firm! - provide yet more evidence of why private sector control is wrong for public services. This is a lesson that has been learned in the careers service, which is being brought back in-house after some years of fragmented part-private provision.

The recognition of the need for public services to be delivered by properly trained and resourced in-house staff should now be clearly outlined by the Government.

Carol Ball, UNISON member and Nursery Nurse Glasgow City Council.

"If the expansion of early years education is to be successful, the problem of low pay in this sector must be addressed.

"Treating nursery workers as second class staff cannot be justified. We need proper recognition of our role and a full review of our function and remuneration".

Carol Ball

Unless we address the problem of low pay in the nursery sector we run the risk of a similar recruitment problem for nursery nurses that we are facing with nurses and other professional health staff. The expansion of early-years education will be jeopardised unless proper recognition is given to the needs of the often low-paid nursery staff who are at the sharp end.

Similarly social work is facing a chronic staffing crisis. The reasons for this include stress and inadequate pay. Whilst we need to address pay, in particular we would want to see much greater public support from the Government for the difficult and necessary job of social work. We also need to introduce funded education and training to staff at all levels in social work to equip them to move into higher skilled jobs.

In housing, it would make far more sense to allow local authorities and their tenants to determine the proper mix of housing tenures rather than continuing with the current crude coercion of removing debt charges only if houses are lost to democratic control. Local councils will have strategic power over local housing. It would make sense for all of them also to be able to provide housing directly, free from the burden of housing debt charges. This would enable councils to provide affordable housing for all, including key workers, who are unable to live and work in areas of high cost housing such as Edinburgh. Councils should be free to borrow for investment; all capital receipts should be returned to councils to fund investment in council housing and the right to buy should be reformed.

Kate Ramsden

Kate Ramsden, UNISON Member and Children's Rights Officer, Aberdeenshire Council.

"Whilst pay needs to be improved to address the staffing crisis in social work, we also need better public support from the Government. They should recognise the difficult but essential job that social workers do. We also need to introduce funded education and train staff at all levels to equip them to move into higher skilled jobs."


Police Services

UNISONScotland welcomes the commitment to retaining local police forces in Scotland. The Scottish Government must continue to recognise the important role that police force support staff play in a modern police environment. This is often in key areas such as crime detection and analytical intelligence work. Over the years many posts have been ‘civilianised' to allow the deployment of more police officers on the beat.

Plans for common services to be provided on a Scotland wide basis require careful consideration. They need to ensure the retention of key staff, by protecting terms and conditions and job security, and ensuring that services are able to respond effectively to local needs.

We must ensure that police support staff are properly rewarded for the key roles that they carry out. Forces must also be provided with budgets that allow them to deliver training that will enhance the career development of all staffs.


Higher and Further Education

Higher and further education is an area which has undergone exceptional expansion in numbers of students, but which requires adequate funding to meet the new demands. There is a desperate need for funding to enable the sector to develop properly trained and resourced teams of teaching and support staff to deliver the courses that Scotland's people need.

It is an area where the market place philosophy has been tried and found wanting. All that the undignified scramble for students has meant in H&FE is merger after merger and the reorganisations that go along with these. This has meant that many colleges now run the risk of closure, ironically both by being merged and therefore providing duplicate courses or the reverse - by being left on their own and not gaining any benefit of scale. In addition, multiple mergers have also led to institutions losing local identities.

The real term decrease in the Enterprise and Life Long Learning Budget has also had a significant impact on the Further and Higher Education sectors. Higher and Further Education has been dogged by underfunding, with universities and colleges that are poorly resourced, and some on the brink of bankruptcy.

UNISON Scotland is increasingly concerned at the incidence of low pay for support, ancillary and teaching staff in these sectors, and in addition the prevalence of discriminatory pay within this sector. This also means that already low-paid support staffs are trapped in the low pay ghetto by underfunding and the problems of individual college balances. UNISON welcomes the Scottish Executive's Close the Gap initiative, but implementation requires support for equal pay audits, backed up with resources, in all institutions.

Lifelong learning requires a healthy tertiary education sector, with properly trained and resourced teams of teaching and support staff allowed to deliver the courses that Scotland's people need.



The energy industry is crucial to the Scottish economy. Three of Scotland's top six companies are in this sector which is also a vital utility to the economy as a whole. Whilst energy generation is a reserved area, other aspects of energy policy are devolved.

Scotland's energy industry is in crisis. Thousands of quality jobs are disappearing across the sector. Whilst the Scottish Executive switches support from inward investment to indigenous companies, UK energy policy drives Scottish investment overseas. European companies, not subject to our competition frameworks in their home market, are squeezing Scottish companies out of the UK. The regulatory framework in Scotland is a complete shambles, producing a system that benefits no one, least of all the bewildered customer.

In the gas industry OFGEM price controls have resulted in even more job losses undermining safety - a key issue in Scotland following the explosions in Dundee and Larkhall.

Kevin Egan

Kevin Egan. UNISON member and Engineer, Transco.

"The Scottish Energy Industry needs a planned energy market and security of supply. A Scottish strategy that builds on, rather than undermines our strengths. In particular the Government must recognise that co-ordinated action rather than failed competition, is needed to tackle fuel poverty."

Action on the energy review is long overdue, and UNISON has published our proposals. A Scottish Energy Strategy calls on government at all levels to adopt a planned market for energy combined with security of supply, meeting social, employment and environmental objectives. Scotland's integrated electricity industry should be supported - not undermined by a regulator determined to impose the failed English model on Scotland.

Other losers have been the disadvantaged customers who make up most of the 30% of Scottish households who suffer from fuel poverty. UNISON has supported the Keeping Scotland Warm campaign that sets out a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue. The Executive is to be commended for its initiatives in this field and in particular the commitments in the Housing (Scotland) Act. However, further co-ordinated action is necessary. In particular a recognition that competitive markets do little for fuel poverty as companies cherry pick the affluent customer at the expense of the fuel poor.



UNISON welcomes the concessionary fares scheme as the first step towards creating a Scotland-wide concessionary fares plan for older and disadvantaged people. Next steps must be to deliver a more co-ordinated Scottish scheme, including linking of local schemes to allow reciprocal travel.

We continue to have major concerns with the ill-advised decision to award the trunk roads maintenance contract to private contractors. Short-term savings have been made at the expense of the level of service given to council-tax payers and workers' pay and conditions. The cut will also result in a continued decline in the roads network as both trunk and council roads need substantial investment. To give just one example, the Highland Council budget allows for resurfacing roads once every 108 years. The split between trunk and local roads maintenance has meant the loss of integrated maintenance across all roads.

These contracts should be brought back in house as soon as possible, and tendering procedures drawn up to ensure in-house and private contractors are subject to the same conditions, and that the workforce is protected from attempts to reduce pay and conditions to cut costs.



UNISONScotland remains committed to the retention of Scotland's water service within the public sector. Given the chaos that competition and privatisation has brought to Scotland's energy industry, it seems bizarre that we should be going down the same road in the water industry.

Whilst full competition has not yet been introduced, there are provisions in recent Acts and further legislation planned for this year, to encourage greater private sector involvement and access to Scotland's water and sewerage infrastructure. In private utilities the objective to maximise profit, is achieved by cherry picking the most profitable customers, leaving the rest to pick up the bill. A public water industry should be focussed on providing an effective and accessible public service, maintaining public health, protecting the environment and underpinning economic development.

Scotland's water industry is being gradually privatised, originally through PFI and now through broader PPPs. The early PFI schemes have been a dismal and costly failure. Not only has PFI cost vastly more than conventional schemes but also once in operation has resulted in a long list of service failures. PPP's are subject to even less public scrutiny.

It is too early to judge the effectiveness of Scottish Water, created by merging the three former water authorities. UNISON remains concerned over the absence of public accountability and a financial framework that results in massive job losses within an unrealistic timetable. Our experience in other utilities show that the loss of experienced staff could fatally undermine safety and customer service.



Future budgets for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency contain no real term increases. This will make it very difficult for SEPA to carry out the various EU directives which have to be implemented and the additional responsibilities it has been given, such as the Flood Warning System. Real term increases are necessary, given the context of inadequate funding over recent years and the increased role for the private sector in water and wastewater services.

UNISON Scotland has significant concerns about the impact of the Water Services Bill and the amalgamation of the three Scottish Water Authorities on the level of service and the effect on Scotland's environment. Currently, there is no level financial playing field with multi-national competitors in England. UNISON calls for an equivalent debt write off and public investment in the current Scottish public system.


Community & Voluntary Services

The community and voluntary sector is an important provider of public services. This should be recognised by government, by local authorities and other funders with a more long-term funding structure. This will require funding bodies themselves to have their resources adequately maintained and improved. In particular there is a need to ensure that funding that is available from government and local authorities recognises the need for the voluntary body to pay appropriate rates and deliver conditions and training.

The overall role of this important service in public service provision is only patchily recognised. Many services provided are ones that have not and are unlikely to be, provided by the traditional public sector. A main strength of the community and voluntary sector is its capacity for innovation and the development of services outside the mainstream. Indeed this is why many of the organisations grew up in the first place. It is clear that in any manifesto dealing with the delivery of services, the vital role of the community and voluntary sector is not only recognised but proper resourcing of it is addressed.

Ian Williamson

Ian Williamson, UNISON member and Print/ Resource Administrator, Scottish Pre-School Playgroup Association.

"Whilst we welcome Government recognition of the the importance of the Community & Voluntary Sector, the problems of resourcing and accountability need to be tackled. Both the sector itself and other funding bodies need improved resources, and funding must recognise that the sector should deliver appropriate pay rates, conditions and training."

There has been a clear recognition by the Government of the status of the sector and its importance in delivering public services. This is welcome. Other positive developments have been the beginnings of partnership working and training proposals.

It is therefore concerning that the problems of resourcing and accountability are not being tackled. We believe that the Executive should address these issues within the Scottish Budget to give the voluntary sector increased funding and a more long term funding structure that provides a better balance between core and project funding. This will also require funding bodies themselves to have their resources adequately maintained, and for the voluntary sector to be accountable in service delivery to the local communities they serve.

The community and voluntary sector should also be involved in the discussion on service needs and priorities. To that end they should be major players in partnership discussions and planning. They should also be accountable for their involvement in this to the local communities they serve.




These aims are outlined as UNISON's contribution to the renewal of Scotland's public services. This is a document to stimulate discussion amongst politicians and people, amongst service users and service providers. We intend to circulate this widely, and hopefully from this document and responses to it can come broad agreement on the way forward for our public services.

We think that our principles:

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

need to guide us as we attempt to create world-class public services in Scotland. We are also clear that these principles have found widespread acceptance, and that what is now required is for government to move to directly resourcing the core public services that will be required to deliver.

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

We also need to adopt the principles for renewal outlined in our opening pages, namely:

Public Service Organisations (PSOs) should

  • Be open, transparent and democratically accountable
  • Have a vision of what they want to achieve. Plan for and assess the delivery of that vision
  • Build their capacity to allow the development of innovative services to meet the needs of users
  • Encourage active participation from users, the community, staff and their trade unions.
  • Provide resources to recruit and retain high quality staff.
  • Have their performance measured by standards linked to available resources and social need.
  • Work together in public service networks
  • Be funded from sources that do not conflict with these principle.

Scotland's Parliament will be judged on how it delivers Scotland's services.

We need our new government to

ReVITALise our Public Services