Welcome to my Blog

I am a semi-retired former Scottish trade union policy wonk, now working on a range of projects. All views are my own, not any of the organisations I work with. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Shared services conference

I was speaking at the Holyrood conference on shared services in Edinburgh today.

Sir John Arbuthnott gave an overview of progress in the Clyde Valley initiative. A number of sensible collaborative projects have made reasonable progress. The problem is that the big ticket item was support services, despite Sir John's advice that this should not be the focus. He rightly said that back office services are very important and there are not massive savings to be had.

The presentation from Glasgow focused on the need to take cost out of the back office to protect frontline services. It was unclear how much of this was real savings rather than simply cost displacement. Lots of impressive looking activity statistics, but how much of that is dealing with failure demand? I was less than impressed with the idea that the recipe for success was to, "stick with it through thick and thin". Sounds like let's ignore the evidence when it doesn't fit with our preconceptions.

The speaker from the English LGA demonstrated the wide range of shared working models. The claimed savings figures looked pretty unimpressive and probably pretty dodgy as well.  A later speaker highlighted the NAO report on Whitehall shared services that came in well over budget and delivered a reduced level of service.

There were some interesting case study presentations from the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland, Fire and Rescue and Stirling Council. There was some honesty about the difficulties in delivering shared working and what had actually been achieved so far. The NHS speaker emphasised that working in partnership with the trade unions was vital, arguing that they add value to the process. All speakers agreed that shared services was only one tool and not appropriate for all.

My presentation sought to turn the focus from top down solutions to a view of service delivery from the frontline perspective. While UNISON is not opposed to collaborative working, we are against large scale back office factories driven by the 'here is one I prepared earlier' consultants. International and UK evidence shows that this approach rarely delivers the promised savings or quality of service. I gave a number of examples of how claimed savings are often simply cost displacement from central services to operational departments. I backed this up with  a UNISON Scotland survey produced for the APSE 'The Front Line Starts Here' booklet. This shows how operational staff now spend hours each week undertaking administrative tasks.

Richard Kerley made similar points about what works and what doesn't, based on a wide range of studies in the UK. Like me, a qualified supporter of the system thinking approach.

In summary, one of the benefits of Scotland's collaborative public service model is that shared working should be easier to achieve. However, that is not the same as centralised shared services. We should design service delivery from the user up – not with consultants from the top down.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Mental health, presenteeism and the workplace

Mental health issues are getting a lot of attention in this morning’s media, rare for a subject that is often taboo.

Ed Miliband leads the way with a broadside at celebrities who make light of mental illness, as he unveils plans to tackle what he calls “the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age”. He will argue that the failure to address mental health is blighting the lives of millions, adding £10 billion to annual NHS spending and costing business £26bn a year in reduced productivity, sickness absence and the cost of replacing staff who can no longer work. He says, “Politicians have been far too silent about mental health, part of a taboo running across our society, which infects both our culture and our politics.”

Dr Steve Boorman follows this up with a piece in the Scotsman on presenteeism. He argues that presenteeism costs UK companies up to £15 billion a year. Employers often forget that unwell people attending work can potentially cost the firm more money than a sick person who is absent. Drawing on his own experience at Royal Mail he concludes:

“These results were not achieved by targeting the sick, lame and wounded and forcing them to work but as a result of management practices promoting employee well-being. Employees were provided with better support and care when illness arose, alongside a policy to improve engagement, which enabled managers to control absence and hit their targets.”

This view is supported by a survey done by UNISON Scotland earlier this year. We asked members about working when ill and why they did it, then about their employers sickness absence policy and how it dealt with the biggest cause of sickness absence, stress. They said:

• Almost exactly a quarter (25%) have worked in the last month when really too ill. Around 60% worked when ill in the last year.

• More than a quarter (27%) did so because concerned that manager would take action against them. Most of the rest for the altruistic reasons such as letting colleagues or service users down.

• Nearly a half (47%) say the sickness policy at work encourages people to work when they really shouldn't. One in seven (14%) say the policy at their workplace is "unfair". A quarter (26%) say it is badly implemented by management.

• 60% say there is a stress policy in place but it is not effective - a further 28% say there is no stress policy at all.

Last Friday, at UNISON Scotland’s safety conference, we heard from the mental health charity SAMH about mental health at work. They highlighted that three in every ten employees will have a mental health problem in any year, making mental health the dominant health problem among people of working age. The business case for tackling this is overwhelming with output losses of over £2bn last year or £950 per employee.

The solutions include recognition, prevention, early identification of emerging problems, awareness training, access to professional health and effective rehabilitation.

So let’s welcome this new political focus on mental health and recognise that effective action in the workplace is long overdue.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Violent assaults on the increase

I am at Stirling University today, speaking at our annual health and safety conference. Part of health and safety at work week.

I am launching the UNISON Scotland annual survey of violent incidents reported to public service employers in Scotland. There were 34,739 staff reported incidents last year. This compares to 20,000 incidents when the first survey was undertaken in 2006.

There has been a big increase in incidents in local government by 2257 to 14274. While there has been a marked improvement in reporting that may explain some of the increase, there are also 7,000 fewer staff working for councils.

It is noticeable that the biggest increase in violent incidents is happening in those council services that are facing the brunt of spending cuts. Staff are stretched too thinly, dealing with service users facing cuts in the services they rely on. This is a toxic cocktail that is putting hard pressed workers at greater risk of violent assault.

The NHS shows a further decrease in incidents by 967 to 10,974. However, the two largest health boards (Glasgow and Lothian) were unable to produce figures this year, so these figures have to be treated with caution. While we are pleased that many employers are improving their systems, others have obviously got some way to go. If they can’t produce decent statistics they cannot be tackling the problem.

Convictions under the Emergency Workers Act have increased by 44 to 324. Due to the limited scope of the Act few violent incidents result in criminal action. Efforts to address this were blocked by the Scottish Government when they opposed Hugh Henry MSP’s, Protection of Worker’s Bill.

These figures demonstrate an appalling level of violent incidents faced by staff who are simply doing their job. Employers must redouble their efforts to protect workers and the Scottish Government must play their role by strengthening the criminal law.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Getting it together on climate change

Scotland is rightly proud of it's ground breaking climate change legislation. In 2009 the largest civil society coalition Scotland has ever seen, campaigned successfully for legally binding targets to reduce Scotland’s climate change emissions. UNISON Scotland was pleased to be part of that coalition.

However, as is often the case in politics, there is a but as this video shows. The most recent emissions data for Scotland showed that not only had the targets for emissions reductions for that year been missed, but that greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland had actually increased by 2%. This is despite the recession that would have a downward impact on the numbers, even without government action. The Scottish Government’s action plans to meet the climate change targets have fallen short and there is a real contradiction with plans to boost oil output and other spending that will increase carbon emissions. Tom Ballantine's piece in the Scotsman explains this in more detail.

We all accept that this isn't easy. UNISON focused on two areas where we warned the planned actions would not match the rhetoric. As we predicted the public duty guidance has turned out to be a toothless document, gathering dust on shelves. Heroic leadership models simply don't work. Climate change action needs to be built up from the bottom and the plans failed to recognise the key role of workers in driving effective action.

And that leads to our second point. Most emissions come from workplaces, therefore any strategy that ignores that fact is bound to fail. Green workplace initiatives have worked well when they have been run, demonstrating worker support for tacking serious action. But they have simply not been encouraged or supported at the level required.

If you cant get to today's parliamentary lobby organised by SCCS, write to your MSP, tweet or take some other action to help show that people across Scotland still care about climate change.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Police reform budget

I was in Parliament today giving evidence to the Justice Committee on the police reform budget.

My written evidence tells the sorry story of the half baked business case that wasn't even completed before Parliament passed the Police and Fire Reform Bill. Then the shambles over VAT liability, when Treasury officials had told the Government that if you organise police and fire this way, the Scottish taxpayer will pay the VAT.

This results in a major savings target that would be challenging enough. However, the Scottish Government has an arbitrary target to maintain police officer numbers at 17,234, therefore the cuts are concentrated on police staffs. Up to 3000 posts are likely to go with the gaps being filled by police officers. A recent survey indicates that up to 2000 police officers will be taken off operational duties, at least in part, to backfill the posts. So much for the promised 1000 extra police officers “on the streets”.

The latest ACPOS cuts proposals give us some indication of the numbers of posts and these are set out in some detail in my evidence.

Police staff A5 leaflet March 2012Some of these cuts (HR, finance and corporate services) are aimed at economies of scale created by one centralised police force. However, past experience of such savings is that they are rarely achieved and certainly not without passing the workload onto operational staff.

The vast majority of these job cuts can only be achieved by substituting police officers for the roles currently undertaken by police staffs. These include custody staff, front office, traffic wardens, licensing staff, clerical support, intelligence gathering, control room and forensic staff. This is already happening with police officers being drafted in, typically at twice the salary, to undertake these duties. 

At today's evidence session there was at least a greater recognition that backfilling is wrong. Although some senior officers are still turning a blind eye to what is happening on the ground. I would challenge any politician to just walk around any police headquarters and see how many police officers are there, not on the streets. A week does not go by without a member telling us of even more officers taken off operational roles to undertake police staff jobs.

Taking trained operational police officers off the streets to perform administrative or specialist tasks – at greater cost, is economic madness. It is also contrary to the Best Value provisions in the Act. This will return the police service in Scotland to almost the 1980‟s, with inefficient and outdated police practice. The Sweeney may be back on our cinema screens, but it isn't a model for a modern police force.

The sensible way forward should be to let the Scottish Police Authority and the Chief Constable decide the correct balance of police officers and police staff using Best Value principles. They should not be subject to a political direction that effectively restricts cuts to police staffs.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Why I will be marching tomorrow

Tomorrow I’ll be joining thousands of people marching through Glasgow for the STUC demo. I am particularly pleased to be marching from George Square, the traditional point of protest in Glasgow. Credit to Glasgow councillors for recognising that George Square is the people's place, not simply to be fenced off for commercial interests.

I am not marching because I think the ConDem coalition will suddenly realise the error of their ways and reverse the austerity economics that is throttling the Scottish economy. I do  believe that a large turnout tomorrow will show the government the extent of the opposition to their plans and give hope to those who are suffering the consequences of cuts to their services and jobs.

I also believe that marching is an important act of solidarity. It brings together the many people who campaign against the cuts in their own small way, in their own communities, acting as a reminder that they are part of a much bigger movement. This march is for them.

It is only one form of protest, but I do not accept the view that it has been eclipsed by other methods. It shows the millions who can't be there that there are many others who believe that there is a better way. That there is an alternative to mass unemployment and poverty wages - particularly for another lost generation of young people.

While I will be marching in Glasgow, the primary target for our protest will be the UK government because they are the driver of austerity economics. Even if the Scottish Government has made some poor choices over local government, police staff, colleges and others, they are only juggling the consequences.

I write this in Perth at the SNP conference. Almost every speaker, in almost every speech, tells us that the solution to austerity economics is independence. A Tory free Scotland if we just shake off the shackles of the Union. Sadly, what is usually missing, is any credible explanation of how that is going to happen. They will need to do much more if they are to convince us to vote 'yes' in the referendum. They may be helped if Labour fails to develop a vision of greater devolution and social justice, independent of the equally dire Better Together campaign.

And on the issue of solidarity, I will be marching for the same reasons as comrades in Belfast and London. Poverty with a kilt on is still poverty. I am not uncritical of Ed Miliband on several issues, but he has not taken the New Labour view that an opposition leader attending demos is making a tactical error. He understands that a Labour leader also has to demonstrate solidarity.

So that’s why I will be marching tomorrow. In solidarity with others who are suffering the consequences of austerity, and those who campaign against the ConDem government. It may not change anything directly, but it’s important, if nothing else for morale. Those marching alongside me may have a different vision of the future, but most of them will certainly be better than austerity.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Local Democracy Week

This is European Local Democracy Week. Every year between 15 and 21 October, the ELDW brings together local authorities from all the 47 member states of the Council of Europe to organise public events to meet and engage with their citizens on issues of current interest. The aim is to promote and foster democratic participation at a local level.

The aims include:
- better involvement of citizens in public life and interaction with local authorities,
- testing citizens’ acquaintance with the participatory tools and their trust in local institutions,
- improving social cohesion and respect of others in the community,
- taking part in a network of European municipalities and regions keen to improve local democracy in their place and across Europe.

ELDW comes at an opportune time for Scotland as we have seen a gradual drift in services away from democratically elected councils to the centre. I set out this centralisation in more detail in a blog post last August. Police and fire reform, the Council Tax freeze, ring fencing funds, care integration and others all reflect a tendency from the Scottish Government towards centralisation.

This is not a unique process to the current administration. Ministers usually come into office believing that services are best delivered locally, but as time goes on they become ever more centralist. In part out of frustration that what they want to happen isn't happening quickly enough. We should also not underestimate the role of senior civil servants who have never quite understood the difference between local administration and local government.

Two Scottish think tanks published reports this summer on local democracy. Neither in my view quite hit the nail, although both are a useful contribution to the debate. We summarise both approaches in our 'Futures' magazine.

ELDW also emphasises the importance of elected democracy - elected representatives, democratically accountable to their community. There is of course an important role for community groups and others in an active democracy, but they are not a substitute for democratic accountability. We should therefore be careful that initiatives like the Community Empowerment and Engagement Bill does not undermine local democracy.

This year's ELDW is putting a focus on human rights in the context of austerity economics across Europe. Human rights are an integral part of local democracy. Many human rights and freedoms are implemented at local level, as is also the case with social and civil rights. These rights include protection and respect for elderly and disadvantaged people, children, minority groups as well as access to public services and freedom of assembly. Every citizen has a responsibility to protect human rights, while local authorities have a key role to play in ensuring that this concept becomes the foundation of a modern and cohesive community.

Events like ELDW give us all an opportunity to recognise the importance of the local democracy we often take for granted. We should stand up for democratic accountability before the drive to centralisation swallows it up.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Referendum sorted - what next?

Today's news that the Scottish and UK governments have done a deal over the s30 order means that the debate can move on from the procedural to the substantive issues of constitutional change.

While I would have liked the opportunity to work towards a second question, no one was under any illusion how difficult it was going to be work up a consensus option. A vote for 16 and 17 year olds is clearly right as they will have to live with the decision longer than the rest of us. Anyone who has canvassed on the doorstep knows that age does not define political awareness. The pivotal role for the Electoral Commission puts a strong independent oversight on the whole process.

For those in the Better Together campaign a single question is welcome as they view this as a straightforward argument between independence, or separation as they put it, and what?

For some in the Better Together campaign it is primarily the status quo as defined by the latest Scotland Act. For others, who support greater devolution, the challenge is to define a 'no' vote as a vote for a different constitutional settlement for Scotland. One advantage of the lengthy run in to the referendum is that it gives time to develop different approaches for Scotland. Independence won’t be defined until the Scottish Government publishes its White Paper in November 2013. The Liberal Democrats plan to publish their ideas soon and Scottish Labour's Devolution Commission will present an interim report to next April's party conference.

Other groups have an important role to play in developing these options. It is particularly important to develop approaches that challenge the neo-liberal consensus that drives so much economic policy in Scotland and the UK. The RedPaper Collective seeks to do just that and expect more from us in the coming months.
The key challenge is to move on from the mechanisms of independence or devolution and onto the purpose of constitutional change. The STUC have been doing this through the A Just Scotland initiative and UNISON, has recently agreed its For a Fairer Scotland vision following a consultation. These initiatives start a dialogue on what sort of Scotland we want and then measure the constitutional offerings against that vision.

Friday, 12 October 2012

World Mental Health Week

This is Scottish and World Mental Health Week. The aim is to raise public awareness about mental health issues. The week promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services. This year the theme is “Depression: A Global Crisis”.

Depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages, in all communities, and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease. Although there are known effective treatments for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries and in some countries fewer than 10% of those who need it receive such treatment.

Over recent years, there has been growing recognition of the extent of mental health issues in the workplace and outside. A quick look at any employer's absence statistics will show that mental health is a significant and growing proportion of absence. The pace of work and public service cuts have put stress much higher up the health and safety agenda.

In Scotland we have the excellent 'See Me' campaign that seeks to end the stigma associated with mental health, a condition that will affect one in four Scots. A YouGov survey commissioned by ‘See Me’ has revealed that while 60 per cent of Scots say they would not find it hard talking to a person with a mental health problem, a sizeable number of Scots are still unsure how to address mental ill-health.

Trade unions are aware that stigma is often based on ignorance and prejudice - from employers and from fellow workers. People with mental health issues continue to have one of the lowest employment rates of any group of disabled people. So trade unions can take make a significant difference by:

Ensuring they can negotiate effective policies with the employer;
Ensuring they can represent members with mental health problems effectively; and
Helping inform and educate their members and representatives to understand the issues.

The TUC has compiled a useful resource list (http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/mentalhealth.pdf) I would also particularly recommend The Labour Research Department's 'Stress and mental health at work - a guide for union reps'. This can be ordered from www.lrdpublications.org.uk for £6.

Any organisation can do a lot to end the stigma associated with mental health. Scottish and World Mental Health Week is an opportunity to highlight the wide range of resources out there to help.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

7 problems with Osborne's 'owner-employee' scheme

The latest stunt from George Osborne is a new kind of employment contract called an owner-employee. Having messed up the economy, why not dabble in another minister’s portfolio!

New, so called owner-employees will be required (optional for existing staff) to swap some of their employment rights for  between £2k and £50k of shares in the business they work for, any gains on which will be exempt from capital gains tax. The rights are unfair dismissal, redundancy, the right to request flexible working/time off for training and providing 16 weeks’ notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual 8. Legislation will come later this year so that companies can use the new type of contract from April 2013. The Government will consult on some details of the contract later this month.

This Beecroft style proposal has all the hallmarks of a wheeze suggested to the Chancellor over one of those expensive fund raising dinners. It also has the attraction of diverting attention from the mess he is making of his own portfolio at the Tory Party conference. A few initial problems spring to mind.

·         These workers will ‘own’ nothing. A handful of shares does not give an employee any real ownership say in the running of the business. But they do take the financial risk of the real owners running down the business and making the shares worthless. We have seen this happen in other employee share ownership schemes.

·         The most likely time an employer will want to sack a worker is when the firm is doing badly. At that time the shares will probably be worthless. So no job, no redress and no cash.

·         Growing small firms actually don’t want to spread ownership because it could impact on the ability to sell the firm. That’s why they insert ‘bad leaver’ terms into the share ownership provisions. If the Treasury blocks this option, as their PR implies, the scheme becomes unattractive.

·         How will the small firm find the capital to do this and what effect will it have on their profit and loss account or share capital account? This could have a knock on effect on their profitability that won’t help borrowing. (hat tip to Richard Murphy)

·         You can already sense dodgy law firms suggesting ways this could be exploited to cowboy employers. For example, cut the pay of new starts by £2k and replace it with shares under this scheme and, for not a penny, you are exempt from unfair dismissal etc.

·         The problem with this and other attempts to weaken unfair dismissal is the unintended consequences. If straightforward unfair dismissal is not available workers and their advisors are more likely to look at the underlying causes of the dismissal. This brings much more complex and expensive legal action into play, including discrimination.

·         As tax law is involved there will inevitably be some complex procedural requirements. In fact the very red tape the Chancellor is so fond of complaining about. Many employers will simply say it isn’t worth the effort. Particularly as very few of them think employment rights are a problem anyway.

With a bit more time I am sure I could come up with many more. The Treasury risk register on this one would make interesting reading. Although I suspect this nonsense was cobbled together so quickly that officials will be scurrying around trying to give the appearance that it will work.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Ruth Davidson's Romney moment

Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson has today achieved what I would have thought was impossible for any Scottish political leader. She has out Mitted, Mitt Romney. Not satisfied with rubbishing nearly half the electorate, she has rubbished 88% of Scots with her speech line, "It is staggering that public-sector expenditure makes up a full 50 per cent of Scotland’s GDP and only 12 per cent of people are net contributors".

In the first instance she has the facts wrong. As John McLaren, of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, said: “If you look at the official figures in Gers, then the percentage of Scotland’s public-sector spending to GDP is slightly less than the rest of the UK if you include North Sea oil and slightly more if you do not, but not enough to make much difference.”

She is wrong again on net contributors, because elsewhere in the Gers report the figure is given as 34%. Of course all of these figures are highly speculative because we don't know how much individuals pay in indirect taxes. As her ConDem government has been increasing taxes on the poor through VAT, this is particularly insensitive.

The political strategy behind this is also unclear, assuming there is one. Even Tories are bewildered if my Twitter feed is anything to go by. And if you are going to do this sort of thing, get your key facts lined up. Her subsequent media performances have highlighted huge gaps in her brief. In particular, if you are going to rubbish Scots make sure you know what the equivalent numbers are in England. If she had bothered to check, they are roughly the same.

Putting to one side the ineptness, the more serious point is what this says about her view of many Scots. Apparently nurses, doctors, teachers, police staff and others don't contribute to the economy. This is simply nonsense. Public services support the economy in so many ways and of course the spending benefits firms directly through contracts, some £8bn, and through spending on the high street. To give just one example, research by APSE shows for every £1 spent by a local council there is an economic return, of £1.64 to the local economy.

It is precisely because of the job losses and pay freeze that we are in the deepest and longest recession since the 1930’s - when the same crazy economics were last tried. If this is Ruth Davidson’s strategy for digging the Tories out of their electoral hole in Scotland, it’s already time for another U-turn.  

Friday, 5 October 2012

Union premium - Stronger in UNISON

The latest figures on pay show that the the union premium, the gap between average wages of union and non-union members, has grown to 18.1%. That's £14.18 per hour compared with £12.01. Even the 'adjusted premium' is around 8% higher.  That's the biggest percentage gap since 2008, showing that even in a recession unions are more successful in halting the downward pressure on wages. Increases in pay have mostly been in the private sector due to government pay policy, but the public sector premium remains higher. There is also a union premium for other terms and conditions including holidays and pensions.

Despite 30,000 public sector job losses in Scotland, UNISON membership has remained pretty stable. Achieved because more existing staff are recognising the importance of union membership in difficult times. When times are tough it is more important than ever to to have the backup of a strong union.

It is however important that we take this message to all our workplaces. So UNISON branches and staff will be targeting specific workplaces over the next few months. In support of this effort my team have developed a range of adverts and campaign materials as a backdrop to what we call the 'Stronger in UNISON' campaign. So expect to see buses, taxis and billboards with these materials on them across Scotland. You can see some examples here.

Stronger Together - Join UNISON

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

We're Not Broke

I was at the European film premiere of We’re Not Broke last night, part of the Take One Action film festival. I was also a member of the post film discussion panel.

The film follows the actions of USA Uncut members in their protest actions across the US. They modelled themselves on the UK Uncut model in highlighting tax dodging companies and the consequential cuts in public services. The film also explains how multi national corporations transfer funds across the globe, using tax havens to avoid US business taxes. Equally powerful was showing how corporations influence, well buy actually, the US legislature on tax issues.

There was also a clip of another panel member, Jolyon Rubenstein’s (BBC The Revolution will be Televised), film highlighting Philip Green’s tax dodging activities. As I pointed out, Green was hired by Cameron to advise on public service efficiency. You really couldn’t make this stuff up!

While the film focuses on the US, there were plenty of messages for us in Scotland and the UK. Not least because many of these tax havens have the Union Jack in their flags. In effect the Queen is the head of the world’s leading tax dodging corporation! Those in the SNP leadership who really think Ireland’s Corporation Tax rate is the way Scotland should go, should also watch the film. It’s done little for the desperate Irish economy and as the US experts pointed out, these corporations are not interested in halving Corporation Tax, they want zero tax. It’s just a race to the bottom.

Another message for us was the role of the big accountancy companies in oiling the wheels of corporate tax dodging. As an audience member pointed out, these are the very same companies brought in to advise on efficiency in Edinburgh council and others. Again you couldn’t make this up.

I set out our response to austerity economics through the Public Works and Better Way campaign messages. In the US the Tea Party and others focus on all tax is bad, government is evil etc. There is some of that here with the Tax Dodgers Alliance, but the particularly British take is, “We are all in this together”, invoking some sort of Dunkirk spirit. Of course ConDem spending cuts and tax increases hit the poorest hardest, while real wages are cut and the rich tax dodge their way to record levels of wealth.

There was a good debate about different methods of protest. Jolyon emphasised creativity as a tool and Christian Aid drew attention to their Tax Justice Bus that is in Edinburgh today. I highlighted the opportunity presented by the Procurement Bill that will be presented to the Scottish Parliament next year. If companies want to benefit from taxpayer pounds they should pay taxes as well. Including aggressive tax avoidance as a factor in tender evaluation would send a very clear message to corporate Britain that those of us who do pay our taxes have had enough. I also urged the good folk of Edinburgh to take a trip to Glasgow on Oct 20 and join the STUC march for ‘A Future that Works’.