By a Newsnet reporter  

In what may be the first of several leading trades unions to come out in support of Scottish independence, delegates to the annual conference of the Prison Officers Association of Scotland have voted overwhelmingly to back independence following a debate at their annual conference at the MacDonald Cardrona Hotel in Peebles.

Stressing that the vote was "indicative" as it involved only branch delegates and was not a full ballot of union members, the assistant general secretary of POAS, Andy Hogg said:  

"At some point unions will have to take a view so we put the proposition 'Scotland would be better off under the UK' up for debate.

"We don't have a party political affiliation but it was a good debate and the delegates ended up rejecting the proposition.  It was something like 90 per cent against.  We had 17 branches represented with 34 delegates."

The debate featured the SNP MSP Christine Grahame speaking against the proposition and Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald arguing in favour.

Mr Hogg said that union members were deeply worried about current Westminster policies on pensions, retirement ages, and the pay freeze amongst public sector workers.  

He said:

"It was a well-received debate but there were some serious issues coming to the fore that members have in relation to pensions.

"UK legislation controls that area because prison officers are covered under the Civil Service pensions policy.  It makes it really difficult to get support from the Scottish Government.

"We should be retiring at 60 but we're facing the prospect of retiring at 68 – that's just not workable in a prison environment.

"With pensions we are paying a contribution over the next three years of five per cent, which amounts to a cut in earnings because of the pay freeze.

"Our guys are finding it increasingly hard to manage with less disposable income and rising bills."

Another issue which was raised by the officers as a reason for supporting independence is the two private prisons in Scotland, Addiewell and Kilmarnock, which were set up under the previous Labour / Lib Dem administration in Holyrood.  Officers want to see these prisons return to public ownership.

Mr Hogg added that under independence: "We would have a Scottish Civil Service rather than a UK Civil Service which would empower us to address these issues."


# Al Ghaf 2012-11-06 07:20
Posted this earlier comment in The Guardian but it breaks the character limit here:

But I think this news from the POAS serves as a heads up as to where individual trade union loyalties might lie in the run up to 2014.
# RaboRuglen 2012-11-06 08:39
Hi there,

I am convinced that the Scottish people are on the point of turning against the Labour party wholly and completely in the same way as they turned against the Tories earlier. This is just one further straw in the wind which is shown to be blowing in that direction.

Another is the reception I and my fellow workers have been receiving from the public in this Royal and Ancient Burgh during our "Yes" campaign activities recently.

If the Labour faithful are beginning to consider the benefits of Independence in this, one of the most heavily loyal Labour areas in Scotland, how much further ahead in their thinking are they elsewhere in the country?

Vote YES in 2014.

# alasdairmac 2012-11-06 09:37
Although the POAS are a small union I hope that this is indeed indicative of the way that union members are now thinking, given that Scottish Labour has now completely deserted them.

With the STUC having made unfavourable noises about the status quo, let's hope that this is indeed a pointer for the future.
# Willie Hogg 2012-11-06 10:41
I suspect that Trade Unions are the main sponsors of the No Campaign, however, given ambivalence to the present UK set up and even votes like the above, they should really reconsider any donations. In the absence of support for the present UK set-up among their members, both north and south of the border, any such donations from their Political Levy must surely be illegal.
# Leal 2012-11-06 17:42
Do branch delegates in any trade union not take the views of their members when voting or are they just representing themselves? Pensions are a subject that many yes activists are going to be questioned on when door chapping. Study for every inquiry.
# ButeHouse 2012-11-06 19:48
You forgot to mention the highly articulate Colin Fox was on stage with Christine Grahame for the YES team of course, Lewis Mac had another speaker too.

Bottom line, the Unions are major players in Scottish politics and we all very much welcome their interest and in some cases, their support.


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