The Scottish committee of the UK’s biggest trade union, Unite, has unanimously decided it will recommend neither a Yes vote nor a No vote in this September’s referendum on Scottish independence.
The trade union said the decision was made following “extensive membership consultations”. Elected workplace representatives gathered in Glasgow on Tuesday morning to debate the referendum process and set out the trade union’s opinion as the six-months-to-go referendum milestone was reached.
Unite’s Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty – who said the referendum was “a decision on the future of a nation and its people and everything that entails” – told journalists that Unite would “encourage members to participate and help increase the quality of debate and scrutiny in this process in order that our members can make the most informed choice they can, based on all the information and options presented to them, come 18 September”.
He said the union had “no interest, whatsoever, in limiting democratic debate and freedom of choice among our members, which is what we believe would happen with the endorsement of a position, while policies and proposals on our country’s constitutional future are still being created and debated”.
Last year, Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey made headlines when he suggested the case for Scottish independence was “seductive” – comments which earned him praise from Christina McKelvie MSP for demonstrating ‘open-mindedness’.
Yes Scotland has failed, however, to attract formal affiliations from any major trade unions. Its sole trade union backer is the Prison Officers’ Association, as the civil service-dominated PCS recently adopted a neutral stance. It still has the support of some individual PCS and CWU branches.
Better Together, by comparison, has more union backers, but has also faced greater controversy over allegations that unions such as the GMB did not properly consult Scottish members.
Either way, the trade unionist vote is far from assured – and commentator speculate workers’ votes could prove decisive in the outcome of the referendum.