Congress reaffirmed its backing for the right of self-determination for the people in Scotland, and that the power should rest with the Scottish Parliament as to whether and when, a second referendum should be held.
The Westminster Government should not resist a second vote if a majority of pro-independence MSPs are elected alongside a clear preference among the Scottish people for a second vote.
However, it was also clear from Congress that the priority of the trade union movement in the period ahead is for a People’s Recovery and that this should be the Parliament’s immediate priority.
The trade union movement was at the centre of the campaign for devolution and the STUC must once again “lead and influence the debate on Scotland’s future in the interests of workers and the communities in which we live and work”, said the motion.
UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby underlined this: “UNISON is proud of the role it played in delivering devolution – as part of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and as signatory to the Claim of Right. We were part of the movement which came together from across Scottish society and which won a Scottish Parliament over 20 years ago.
“The principle then – was that the form of government of Scotland is a matter for the people of Scotland to decide. It is neither nationalism, nor unionism, but democracy.”
“What we as a movement must do is to critically assess the impact for jobs, for public services, for our standard of living and quality of life and equip people to decide what’s in their interests.”
Congress slammed the SNP’s “Growth Commission austerity vision” for an independent Scotland and urged that the Scottish trade union movement carve out a space for the vision of working people across Scotland for our future, which is “neither Growth Commission nationalism nor Tory status quo.”
The debate needs to continue to be driven by workers’ rights and equality and the principles of the ‘People’s Recovery’.
Mike added: “UNISON Scotland defends public services and those who deliver them and as such it is imperative that we explore the full range of options available. The economic implications of different options – and their likely impact on workers and communities – are complex to understand, that’s a fact.
“What we as a movement must do – as set out in the composite – is to critically assess the impact for jobs, for public services, for our standard of living and quality of life and equip people to decide what’s in their interests.”
Tactical super-majority undermines sovereignty
The General Council stressed that any tactical manoeuvring to get a pro-independence ‘super-majority’ in the Scottish Parliament was not a mandate to negotiate independence. Without a referendum, this would undermine the sovereignty of the Scottish people who remain broadly divided on the issue.
And any referendum question should not necessarily be binary. The STUC pledged to explore a range of constitutional proposals, including independence and ‘Devo Max’ and set up “a union led ‘constitutional convention’ to represent the voices, views, and vision of working people across Scotland for our future.”
While backing the PCS and STUC Youth Conference composite, the General Council statement cautioned that the right to hold a referendum is “an entirely separate question from whether a referendum should be held, in what timescale, and from what its outcome should be.”
The statement recognised the reality that trade union members are divided on the referendum issue in similar proportion to the wider electorate. Polls show a majority of the Scottish people are opposed to a referendum taking place in the first half of the Parliament.
And the statement also warned against any ‘indicative’ or ‘campaigning’ referendums because they “lack democratic legitimacy and are of little or no use in resolving constitutional issues.”
The same went for EU membership. A yes vote for independence must not be a mandate also for EU membership and that should be subject to a separate referendum.
The STUC will now:
- establish a working group to examine a range of constitutional proposals, including independence and ‘Devo Max’.
- set up a union led ‘constitutional convention’ with affiliates to represent the voices, views, and vision of working people across Scotland for our future; and
- produce a comprehensive and accessible report before any referendum which articulates the findings of the discussions.