Speaking at the Scottish TUC conference, Pat Rafferty, Unite’s Scottish secretary will urge trade unions to be agents for democracy and social justice in the Scottish independence campaign, giving members the ability to scrutinise the arguments so that they can make an informed choice over the destiny of Scotland.
Addressing the conference in Dundee this afternoon (Wednesday 16 April), he will call on the STUC in the parliamentary and democracy debate to endorse neither Better Together or Yes Scotland, saying:
“Unlike 1707, it won’t be politicians or big business or vested interest groups that decide Scotland’s constitutional future - no matter how certain sections may try and coerce.
“In the final analysis, the people will decide based on their own determinations.
“Conference, that’s how it should be and that’s what trade unions should be facilitating because the outcome in September will invariably define our collective future and indelibly shape the issues which we hold dear and fight for every day on:
“That is jobs, wages, pensions, public services, welfare, tackling inequality, and better employment and trade union rights.
“For us, that’s what this debate is and should always be about; advancing our values and the primacy of our members’ interest; holding the respective campaigns to account and scrutinising their proposals.”
He will go on to warn that a trade union agenda should not be compromised by party politics and that grassroots trade union members do not want a diktat on how they should vote in the referendum, saying:
“It shouldn’t be about borders, or passports, or issues of identity. It certainly shouldn’t be about the views of celebrities or chief executive officers whose status and wealth will face no consequence in the future irrespective of the referendum outcome.
“A trade union agenda shouldn’t be compromised or diluted by party politics or political affiliation - not on this issue because this isn’t a run of the mill election that we can vote to change four or five years later.
“This is about deciding a constitutional settlement that best advances the aspirations of the working class in our workplaces and communities.
“It should be our job as agents for democracy and social justice to provide the platforms for our members to scrutinise the campaigns in order that they can make an informed choice on Thursday 18 September.
“Grassroots trade union members don’t want a diktat on how they should vote and they don’t want their participations to be limited by a three-line whip.
“They want their trade unions to be campaigning for and representing their interests without compromise.
“They want their trade unions to fully support their efforts to reach their own determinations based on the arguments presented from across the campaigns.”
Concluding he will say:
“That’s why my own union, Unite, took the decision to endorse neither Better Together nor Yes Scotland.
“And it’s for the very same reasons I passionately believe the STUC should do likewise.
“It’s not fence-sitting, far from it.
“It is, fundamentally, the right thing to do in order to ensure our members have the freedom to maximise their activism – to debate, to scrutinise and to decide their future.”
For further information please contact Peter Welsh on 07810157931.
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Notes to editors
• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.