Trade unions across Scotland have begun consideration of Scotland’s Future, the Scottish Government’s 670-page white paper that lays out the case for independence and the means through which Scotland would become an independent country.
Unite, the largest trade union in the UK and Ireland, is the first to publish an official response to the document, in which it said it offers “some welcome proposals that will contribute towards the wider debate” and joins “the growing ranks of worthy publications, such as the Common Weal and Red Paper Collective, to help people debate and decide our constitutional future”.
The statement, from Unite’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty, welcomes in particular the Scottish Government’s commitment to keep public services in public hands, improve childcare provision, and reverse UK welfare reforms by abolishing policies like the bedroom tax.
Rafferty said the union also “[notes] with interest proposals for the establishment of a National Convention on Employment and Labour Relations which we hope reflects a long-term desire for a more pluralistic approach to employment relations from the Scottish government”.
But the union does believe that “greater detail” is required on “important issues such as pension protections and the pursuit of a fairer system of taxation (including the role of corporation tax)”. It will also pursue “more detail on proposals for wider trade union-related legislation and the role of collective bargaining in re-balancing the future Scottish economy”.
Unite also believes there is “a case for the creation of a Scottish defence diversification agency to help offset the employment impact on the proposed removal of Trident”.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of teaching union the EIS, said his union will “study the detail in today’s White Paper and use this to inform future discussions, both internally and also with external organisations including Scotland’s political parties and government”.
And Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), welcomed the paper’s “ambition” on key issues like childcare.
He added: “Although most of the ideas and positions set out in the paper are already quite familiar, the commitment to establishing a National Convention on Employment and Labour Relations is interesting and of particular relevance to the STUC.”
At the present moment, the larger trade union movement has not rallied behind either side in the referendum debate. Despite historic links between the trade union and labour movement and the pro-Union Labour Party, the STUC refused an offer last year to join the Better Together campaign.
And an increasingly prominent pro-independence faction within Scottish Labour, called Labour for Independence, emerged early last year, headed by Labour and EIS member Allan Grogan.
So far, one Scottish trade union and one branch of the CWU have put their weight behind the Yes campaign, while four trade unions have put their weight behind No – including GMB, to some controversy.
The trade unionist vote has been identified as a major factor in the outcome of next year’s historic referendum. Left-wing figures within both referendum campaigns have fought to sway it in their favour, with Scottish Socialist Party spokesman Colin Fox insisting the trade unionist vote is “up for grabs”.
But there is no clear evidence that a majority of trade unionists have yet decided how they will vote on Scotland’s constitutional future.