Elections in Scotland and that Independence Question

One of the major issues in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections is:- should there be another Independence Referendum or as it is referred to in Scotland Indy–Ref 2.

The Democracy Alliance NEC has a clear perspective and strategy about engaging members on this issue. As a democratic members led union we believe that members living and working in Scotland should decide the PCS attitude to a referendum.

PCS has no national policy on this issue therefore it is for the NEC alone to determine policy between ADC’s where no national policy exists. Early in the 2014 referendum some of the large public service unions affiliated to the Labour Party mailed members recommending a “NO” Vote in the referendum, this caused some considerable backlash. The Democracy Alliance NEC, advised by Scottish NEC members that taking a more traditional Labour line on this issue would be deeply divisive amongst Scottish members, took the decision to consult members in Scotland on the PCS attitude to the independence referendum.

PCS consulted Branches widely and in 2014 there was a delegate Conference of Scottish Branches where the format was speakers (which included then Deputy SNP Leader, Nicola Sturgeon) on each of the propositions, debate and a vote.

The propositions were: –

Proposition 1: “That this conference believes that PCS should take no campaign side on Scottish Independence”

Proposition 2: “That this conference believes that PCS should campaign in support of Scottish Independence”

Proposition 3: “That this conference believes that PCS should campaign in opposition to Scottish Independence”

There were 18,025 votes for proposition 1, 5,775 votes for proposition 2 and of particular note, no votes cast for proposition 3. This may have been surprising to members outside Scotland, but the reality of an SNP Government, at that time, had a consistent line slightly more left-wing than Labour who when in Government in their first two terms in Holyrood had failed to be wholly supportive of the more public service orientated Scottish Economy. The SNP were gaining popularity in many former industrialised areas by picking up policies abandoned by “new” Labour.

Driven by democratic decision of Scottish members PCS proceeded with “PCS informs, you decide”, keeping members informed particularly where the “YES” or “NO” campaigns took positions on public services and public service workers. At the same time members were being informed of the debate, the Civil Service unions met with Scottish Ministers and senior Scottish Civil Servants seeking assurances on Civil Servants Jobs, Pay and Conditions both within Scottish Departments and importantly for Westminster Civil Servants living and working in Scotland. This dialogue was extremely positive and the mechanism for the dialogue the “Strategic Forum” where Civil Service Unions and Ministers and Senior Civil Servants engage on high level policy matters is still in place.

In the wake of the referendum, PCS pursued Nicola Sturgeon on the commitments given at the conference and also some of the matters that had been covered in the Strategic Forum. This included Pay Restitution where we put it to Ministers that the Scottish Government need not wait for Independence to move towards Pay Restitution for Civil Servants in the devolved Scottish bargaining bodies.

Since that time, with PCS actively campaigning on Pay and terms and Conditions, Scottish Government have chosen a different path on Civil Service Pay, firmed up on the commitment to no compulsory redundancy, in consultation with the STUC including PCS introduced the Fair Work policy, where the Civil Service unions have agreed a framework Agreement on Fair Work in the Civil Service. The Fair Work Framework has useful for supporting and underpinning the terms and conditions of Scottish Sector Civil Servants and instrumental in getting over 200 AO’s off two-year contracts onto permanent job contracts in Registers of Scotland.

Labour, top on this pole, but not in the Polls

The Labour Party have still not regained their political position in Scotland with many not prepared to forgive them for sharing a platform with the austerity driven Conservative Government on maintaining the union. Together with the Westminster Governments calamitous and tragic handling of COVID-19, BREXIT and the promises in the notorious “Pledge” falling apart, the momentum behind Independence is gathering. Recent polls have indicated more than half the Scottish population now support independence and projections for the Scottish Parliamentary elections anticipates a majority for political parties supporting independence.

The conference was a triumph of the Democracy Alliance leadership and the democracy of PCS who were one of the few unions to consult members over this, from a UK perspective, controversial issue. The event itself has been the gift that just keeps giving and marked a watershed in developing the working relationship with the employer in the Scottish Sector. This makes a compelling case for this event taking place again if another referendum on Independence is called.

John Jamieson

John is standing for the NEC as part of the Democracy Alliance. Click on the image below for more information.