Saturday, 13 March 2010

MSPs and Unions

This past Tuesday the Scottish Parliament ground to a halt because Labour and Nationalist MSPs refused to cross a trade union picket line set up outside the building. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) had called a 48 hour strike of civil servants.

About two thirds of MSPs took a day off from their desks which meant that six full Parliamentary committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday - dealing with a range of issues from public sector reform to knife crime - had to be cancelled or postponed by their own convenors.

The decision not to cross the picket line was largely driven by Labour MSPs with the support of some SNP members.

The shut-down went ahead even though the committee conveners had been assured by Alex Fergusson, the Presiding Officer and Paul Grice, the Parliament's chief executive, that there would be enough clerks and officials available to staff the committees and allow them to proceed as normal. Both men were said to be privately furious about the MSPs decision to sympathise with the strikers.

MSPs are elected by all of the people and not the minority which belong to a union. They have a responsibility to all of us. Last summer more than a third of our MSPs stayed away during the Queen's anniversary visit to Holyrood. That snub was widely seen as ill-mannered. Tuesday's performance was even worse.

The work of Parliamentary committees is the core business of the parliament and for MSPs to bow to unions in this way is a disgrace. The PCS strike had nothing to do with the duties of our elected politicians whose role is to represent Scottish society, not just one section of it. What do they intend to do if the cuts in public services widely predicted begin to be felt and council workers take to the streets? Will the Scottish Parliament close down and MSPs be out on the picket lines waving placards?

A list of those MSPs who did not attend the parliament on Tuesday has not been published but each and every one of them should be ashamed at their behaviour. Part of an MSP's duty is to represent us in parliament during the parliamentary year. Tuesday was such a day yet two thirds of our elected representatives chose not to do their jobs.

It's no surprise to me that labour MSPs took this action because the unions are their party's paymasters but I was most disappointed to note some SNP MSPs supported their behaviour. The PCS must be delighted to know that they have the power to close down business in the Scottish Parliament whenever they desire. I don't suppose they could have dreamt of a better outcome.

If this comes to pass there will be no space for picketing outside the parliament. I'm with the Green MSP Patrick Harvie on this: "The obsession with security measures is largely cosmetic, pretty pointless and growing unacceptably expensive. Adding a ring of concrete [round the Scottish Parliament] sends entirely the wrong message and won't do much to reassure the public that MSPs have their priorities right."

This 'project' was not the idea of MSPs but was suggested by a quango called the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, the UK government authority that takes advice from the security services and helps organisations protect themselves against 'the terrorist threat'.

The money would be better spent on supplying our troops with more equipment.


banned said...

The strike by the PCS will at least have saved a few quid on the wages bill, the same will not be so for the oh-so-right-on MSPs who 'supported' them, wasters.

Suspended4th said...

If anyone has seen the excellent Documentary series 'Power of Nightmares', they will agree with me that this security 'wall' is just another demonstration of the phoney, fear-based society our leaders have thrust on us to make sure we toe-the-line

cynicalHighlander said...

Fear is the best way of controlling the people for political ends.

A new publication which might interest yourself and readers SB.

subrosa said...

I was furious when I read about this banned. How dare MSPs take time off, at our expense, to do this.

subrosa said...

I haven't seen that Suspended but I shall certainly try now.

Thanks for the link too.

subrosa said...

It is CH. I do read newsnet CH, in fact it's on my blogroll. Excellent it is too.

subrosa said...

For those interested in Suspended's link, the documentary is on Youtube in 6 parts:

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