All of us rely on the services delivered by local government. From childcare to elderly care, to supporting vulnerable people, keeping our streets lit and emptying our bins, helping us to stay fit and our children to learn local government is at the heart of Scottish society. Councils are losing their capacity to act, losing control of services and responsibility for their finances (with consequent underfunding). A combination of centralisation and austerity has made councils institutions where far from being drivers of wellbeing in their localities, they have often been more focused on limiting the damage of decisions taken elsewhere.
UNISON therefore generally supports this proposal to incorporate the European Charter of Local Self Government into law in Scotland. We believe that it could offer the basis for rules that would maintain a strong relationship between local and national government which respects the mandate of both now and in the future. Most importantly it will strengthen local democracy and empower local authorities to work alongside their local communities to improve lives.
As we know from our work, for those with protected characteristics discrimination also leads to many suffering socioeconomic disadvantage, so many struggle to fully realise their rights. Exclusion from justice isn’t just about having the financial resources to fund a legal challenge but also the knowledge of your rights and where to find support to make a challenge. Not everyone has access to the legal services that trade union membership provides.
Equalities impact assessment must therefore be mainstreamed though out the whole Bill making process. It cannot be an add-on at the end of the process. UNISON would therefore welcome the publication of a full Equalities Impact Assessment as soon as possible.