Unite slams ‘power grab’ as National Care Service Bill published

Transfer of services from local authorities to the Scottish Government represents an ’all-out assault'

Unite the union has today (21 June) slammed the Scottish Government over what it calls the 'biggest power grab' in the era of devolution following the publication of the National Care Service Bill.

The Bill permits Scottish Ministers to transfer social care responsibility from local authorities to the National Care Service, which is to be functional by the end of the 2026 parliamentary term.

The proposals in the Bill include the transfer of adult and children’s services, alongside areas of social work. Scottish Government Ministers will also be able to transfer healthcare functions from the NHS and health boards to the National Care Service. 

Unite has condemned the proposals to transfer services, people and property from local authorities to the Scottish Government or to care boards as a ‘recipe for disaster’. The union says the proposals constitute an ‘all-out assault’ on local authorities and democracy on the back of the Scottish Government also freezing the local government budget allocation for the remainder of this parliamentary term.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Scottish Government could not have drafted a more incomprehensible, incoherent and dreadful Bill. The plans to transfer services, people and property from local authorities to the Scottish Government are a recipe for disaster and represent an all-out assault on local democracy. 

“This is a wasted opportunity for the Scottish Government to build a public, accountable care service that genuinely serves the needs of the people of Scotland and leads the way across the UK. Unite is determined that we will force a rethink because these proposals risk making a bad situation for social care even worse.”

Amid the measures questioned by Unite is the ‘bizarre’ proposal that could see the transfer of power and responsibility for a health service currently provided by a local authority to a National Care Service body only for it then to outsource it back to the local authority who will be deemed as a ‘contractor’. 

Unite is raising further serious concerns over the lack of detail on how 'care boards' (local and special) will interact under the terms of the National Care Service. It is also proposed that health services will be delivered 'locally' or on a national basis by a 'single special care board' at the discretion of Scottish Government ministers.

Wendy Dunsmore, Regional Officer, Unite the Union said: “The proposals represent the biggest power grab by the Scottish Government in the era of devolution. Scottish Government Ministers will be able to unilaterally decide what services are to be delivered nationally or locally. Yet, there is next to no detail on major elements of these proposals including how local and special care bodies will work independently and with each other even if it's at a ministers sole discretion. The proposal to make local authorities a ’contractor’ for a service they currently provide by one of these care bodies is just simply bizarre.  

"Unite has for some time been severely worried about the emerging framework surrounding the National Care Service and we have had every right to be.These proposals will be vociferously challenged and ultimately defeated.“


Notes to Editor

National Care Service (Bill) Explanatory Notes 

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Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.