Members will decide union poll stance

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The article by Professor Gregor Gall, “No, you won’t get me as part of the Union” (Perspective, 11 June), refers to the “likelihood” of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) backing Scottish independence. I am writing to put the record straight.

While Prof Gall and other columnists may ponder as they wish over the likelihood or otherwise of the stance of Scottish trade unions in the run-up to the independence referendum, decisions over major matters of policy such as our attitude towards the referendum are made through the sovereignty of our democratic processes, and not in opinion columns.

Let me be clear. The matter of independence has significant and far-reaching implications for the 30,000 PCS members working in civil and public services across Scotland. Two-thirds of those members work for current UK government departments delivering vital services to the public throughout the whole of the UK.

Their jobs, terms and conditions, pay and pensions are all set at a UK level. Even our members working for Scottish ministers remain part of the Home Civil Service in an arrangement reached by PCS and predecessor unions as part of the Constitutional Convention settlement under devolution.

It would be remiss if the union representing civil servants did not engage meaningfully with all sides in a debate that, whatever the outcome, has such massive implications. PCS members, however, like the vast majority of citizens of Scotland, will not merely vote in the referendum on matters relating to their current employment. To that end, our union has been engaging with members and our democratic lay representatives structures at every step of the debate on further powers for Scotland.

Three all-Scotland policy forums have been held in which PCS activists and reps have participated in debates to shape our union’s approach to critical engagement with all sides in the debate.

On the policy front to date, PCS supported the Calman Commission call for the further devolution of powers; the Scottish Government’s call for a referendum on independence in autumn 2014; and we have supported the right to vote in that referendum for 16- and 17-year-olds. We 
have backed the STUC’s interim report A Just Scotland and have expressed public opposition equally to Scottish Labour’s stance on universal provision and the SNP government’s stated desire to lower corporation tax in a post-
independence Scotland.

We are in the process of detailed research on our members’ attitudes to independence and its implications on jobs, pay, pensions and terms and conditions among other matters.

Last month, the PCS annual conference debated a 
number of branch motions on independence and confirmed that PCS would not take a view on the referendum at this time. Instead, conference voted to continue our research, to continue to engage with all sides in the debate on the impacts on our members and the vital public services they deliver, and then in our best democratic tradition 
consult our members and branches in Scotland before considering a final and informed view.

Prof Gall’s suggestion that PCS is “likely” to support independence is, therefore, somewhat premature and would seem more of an exercise in crystal ball-gazing rather than a serious assessment of the 
detailed and considered 
processes that a large collective democratic organisation such as ours is going through.

Whether we choose to 
support independence or not will be in the hands of our representatives and members.

Lynn Henderson

Scottish Secretary, PCS