LOCAL AND PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS: SCOTLAND DECIDES - WELL
New Executive brings new opportunities - and challenges
by Chris Bartter
The outcome of the recent Scottish Elections has major implications
for UNISON in Scotland, says Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish
"The important thing to grasp, is that UNISON's policy of
engaging with political parties across the spectrum continues."
He said, "UNISON is keen to sit down with the new Executive
and discuss with them ways forward for our members, our services
and our policies."
UNISON ran a strong campaign during the election, primarily
promoting the role of Scotland's public services. Thousands
of leaflets and posters were distributed via UNISON branches
urging members to question their candidates and supplying
In a new development a major sponsorship was undertaken
with the Herald. Their pre-election supplement and their election
website all carried the UNISON message - as will the new government
poster due on 24 May.
An opinion poll commissioned by UNISON confirmed that the
Scottish public continued to value their public services and
continued to want them democratically delivered - rather than
by private firms. This was backed up by a poll for the BBC
which put the public delivery of public services as the number
one issue for electors.
In a new development separate material was produced featuring
the important role UNISON members play in protecting and enhancing
the environment and the increasing role that UNISON as a union
is playing in the fight against climate chaos.
This message and other policy issues had a struggle getting
into the press. Matt Smith said. "In the tight race between
Labour and the SNP, third party campaigns like ours faced
an uphill battle to get press coverage. However, branches
and members picked up the message - and candidates were left
in no doubt where UNISON stood.
"While we need to re-examine ways of more effectively getting
the message to our members faster, there is no doubt we had
Analysis of SNP manifesto commitments illustrate many of
the issues that UNISON is likely to want to discuss with the
new government. Public Service Trusts and the future of PFI;
the threat of financial cuts and removing tax raising powers
from local government are indicative of possible opportunities
and challenges for our members.
Matt Smith is clear that issues need to be raised constructively.
"We want to engage in serious discussion with the new government."
He said "We currently are drawing up key issues to raise.
"This will be a minority government, and some issues will
be put on the back burner because the SNP know they will not
win them. And when they do take on legislation - opportunities
are there to work across the political spectrum - something
we've been doing for some time.
"UNISON is not in opposition: we are looking to constructively
engage with the SNP government, and with all of the political
parties in the Scottish parliament to pursue our policies.
"We need also to recognise the importance of dialogue with
newly elected councils, most of whom will be coalitions."
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