First of our election hustings yesterday at the police staffs seminar. The format is an introductory speech from each of the party justice spokespersons, followed by questions from our members.
A good turnout from the main political parties with the exception of the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill who cried off on the grounds that the event was 'political'. And the Justice Secretary is not 'political'? I suspect he was more concerned that his cosmetic '1000 police officers' might come under a bit of scrutiny from staff who understand only too well what this really means. Central Scotland MSP Christina McKelvie, stood in for him and did her best. Christina is a Unison member with a background in social work and, whilst not on her subject, had at least done her homework. More than can be said for the Justice Secretary!
The audience were also pretty sceptical about the national police force, supported by Labour and the SNP. In particular about the claimed savings, a point Richard Baker struggled with. He was on stronger ground with Labour's position on police staffs generally and privatisation. The new Tory justice lead, John Lamont, clearly had a crash course in policing following Bill Aitken's resignation, but his support for privatisation went down like a lead balloon following the Group 4 nonsense a couple of weeks ago.
Lib-Dem, Robert Brown was on stronger ground with his support for localism, although as the party jointly responsible for the cuts he had some convincing to do. Patrick Harvie played well with an audience that are perhaps not a natural fit for the Greens.
The questions from the floor were excellent, often put over with a real passion from staff who are not normally at the forefront of UNISON campaigns. Police staffs have a wide range of concerns and they have not been slow in recent months in getting stuck into politicians. So candidates in the election have been warned. Police staffs will be coming to a hustings near you!