Day 1 at the Scottish Labour Party conference in a very wet and windy Oban.
The day started with a debate on justice policy. I got up to second a motion supporting Hugh Henry's Protection of Workers Bill. This was an opportunity to highlight our recent survey that revealed nearly 30,000 recorded violent incidents in Scotland's public sector. Effective legislation is part of the solution but the Scottish Government claims the Bill is not necessary because the common law provisions are working well. However, they can produce no evidence to support this claim and our experience is that the system is not protecting our members. Staff who serve the public are entitled to better protection from the justice system.
George McIrvine from our Police Committee made a thoughtful contribution on police cuts. He set out the roles Police Staffs undertake and highlighted the waste of deploying police officers in administrative roles. Extra police officers are useless if they are sitting behind a desk performing functions they are not qualified to do.
The keynote speech of the day was UK Leader Ed Milliband MP. Ed gave an excellent performance that set out a new direction for Labour under his leadership, a clear break from New Labour. Incidentally the New Labour brand name is being excised from Scottish Labour publications - not that the ideology ever really caught on here. More importantly he set out an alternative economic strategy to the Con-Dem coalition.
Iain Gray launched the Living Wage campaign with a commitment to a wage of at least £7.15 per hour across the public sector. He also understands the importance of using public sector procurement to achieve a living wage in the private sector as well. Less welcome was talk of pay freezes. We recognise that money will be tight next year but expecting low paid workers to meet the cost of the bankers folly does not meet any measure of fairness that I know of.
The local government debate began with CoSLA Labour Leader Jim McCabe dismissing the Concordat. He described the recent negotiations with John Swinney as deceitful. As usual Jim rarely misses his mark! Gray Allen from our Falkirk Branch made an entertaining contribution, giving a front line workers perspective of the Con-Dem attack on local services.
Our lunch time fringe meeting on climate change was well attended, despite the rain. Some excellent presentations and thoughtful contributions from the floor promoting the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland manifesto. Many of these proposals appear in the Scottish Labour policy programme and Iain Gray and Sarah Boyack both paid credit to the effectiveness of the SCCS lobby on the Climate Change Act.