UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Constitutional debate must look beyond independence

#STUC12 In a surprisingly low key but deeply significant debate, the Scottish TUC has launched a major engagement with members and the public about the future of Scotland. That constitutional debate "should not be about what powers politicians want, but about what they want to do with those powers”, UNISON’s Stephen Smellie told Congress this morning.

Like almost all the other speakers, Stephen focussed on the questions trade unions should be asking. Would independence, as envisaged by the SNP with lower business taxes and Bank of England monetary control, bring fairness and equality? Could more devolved powers allow us to take rail back into public ownership? Would a constitutional settlement within the UK guarantee and end to child poverty? What would employment law, health and safety and workers' rights look like after independence or further devolution options?

“The answer to all these questions is not a flag, a border or even a list of powers in Edinburgh and London. It is what you intend to do with these powers and for what purpose”, Stephen told delegates.

The STUC has a proud track record in taking major debates out into workplaces and communities. It's engagement with the Constitutional Convention that brought devolution was a case in point - especially in its ability to bring together all aspects of Scottish civic life.

This debate, the most important in Scotland for 300 years, will be a harder nut to crack. There is no broad consenus emerging yet and there is a danger of retrenchment into pro and anti independence camps based more on nationalism (with a small 'n') rather than on any sophisticated debate.

The STUC is right to try to bring the focus on the Scotland we'd like to see. One that plays its part in challenging inequality locally and around the world,. One that seeks to harness global wealth for the common good, one that seeks decent employment laws and one that eradicates poverty. None of that can be done by constitutional change alone. But unless we manage to open up the debate beyond merely independence or not, a real opportunity to build change based on a progressive vision will be lost.
For full report see http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/stuc2012/18.html