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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Coalition Agreement

So it is to be a Con-Lib coalition. Much talk of new politics from a rather similar group of public school, Oxbridge educated men. Looks much more like a typical establishment government than any new politics.

Looking at the cabinet appointments there is also a concern that we have the economic right wing of the Liberals joining with the Tories. For example David Laws, author of the Liberal Orange Book, is probably further to the right than some of his Tory colleagues. He favours dismantling the NHS, so I suppose people in England should be grateful he isn't the Health Secretary!

In this context we should be particularly grateful that we have devolution in Scotland. The Tory plans for schools and hospitals appear to have largely survived the agreement and will result in the effective privatisation of these essential public services south of the border. But Scotland will not be exempt from the worst aspects of this deal.

In particular the agreement confirms that there will be an emergency budget and a further £6bn of cuts this year. We will need to see where these cuts fall for the Barnett consequentials, but it will be a further blow to public services in Scotland.

Other parts of the agreement that directly impact on UNISON members in Scotland include:
  • Establishing an independent commission to review the long term affordability of public sector pensions, while protecting accrued rights. We will need to see just how 'independent' this review will be and what its remit will be.
  • Annual limit on non-EU economic migrants. Difficult to see how this will work in Scotland and the impact on areas like the care sector could be significant. Ending detention of children for immigration purposes is of course welcome.
  • Commission to consider the ‘West Lothian’ question.
  • Implementation of the Calman commission proposals. On a straight read this means all of them, but we will see.
  • Working to limit the application of the Working Time Directive. Part of a strong anti-EU tone to the document where the Lib-Dems appear to have almost totally capitulated.

 UNISON's initial reaction is summed up in the statement from our General Secretary, Dave Prentis:
“We now face our biggest challenge ever. Without a strong union, no public service will be safe from privatisation and cuts. Without a strong union, no public service worker’s pay and pension will be secure.

The Lib-Dems have already ditched their promise to oppose the Tories' plans for £6bn cuts this year. This will put the recovery at risk, and cost thousands of jobs. Plans for more cuts will follow, hitting communities hard. We will fight tooth and nail to protect our members and the vital jobs they do. We will seek to build strong alliances, particularly with local communities and service users, to campaign against cuts and privatisation.”

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