Public service Reform

Jan 19, 2017 Add a comment

In a  detailed policy paper, Dave Watson, of UNISON Scotland, argues that the financial and other pressures on Scotland’s public services are driving an agenda of piecemeal public service reform.

Five years after the Christie Commission set out the principles of a particularly Scottish approach, it is time to take a holistic look at the next stage of reform. Dave Watson’s paper for the Reid Foundation examines the context and development of public service reform in Scotland and analyses the approaches of the current government and those who advocate other reforms. The paper makes the case for change that recognises the value of public services to the economy and society generally.

It argues for the delivery of integrated public services built around recognisable communities, whose primary focus is to challenge the underlying inequalities that blight our country and waste public resources, generation after generation. Services should be delivered at the lowest practical level, allowing staff and citizens to design services in a way that best meets the needs of their communities.

The role of central government should be to set the strategic direction based on outcomes – rather than trying to direct services from Edinburgh. However, the paper recognises that a country the size of Scotland cannot justify duplication and difference for the sake of it. It makes the case for public service frameworks that allow local services to focus on what matters to achieve positive outcomes.

This paper attempts to break out of the sterile centralism v localism debate, with a different approach. It offers a co-operative more equal Scotland, rather than one left to the vagaries of the market.

Read the paper in full Public Service Reform by DaveWatson

The Prudential Code

Jan 19, 2017 Add a comment

Independent statistician and economist, Jim Cuthbert, warns the Prudential Code provides Scottish local government with no protection in the coming storm.

After the Scottish Government’s tight local government funding settlement in its December 2016 budget, and ahead of the local elections in May next year, independent statistician and economist, Dr Jim Cuthbert, sheds light on a little known but now critically important rule, the statutory Prudential Code in a new policy paper for the Jimmy Reid Foundation. The paper is entitled ‘The Prudential Code: flimsy fig leaf in the coming storm’.

The Prudential Code for Capital Finance in Local Authorities was introduced in Scotland in April 2004. Since then, local authorities have discretion to determine their own levels of capital expenditure and borrowing, provided they abided by the code which is designed to ensure that authorities act prudently and sustainably.

Since its introduction, the code has operated without attracting much comment. But now that we are in an era of much greater uncertainty, with the Scottish Government in control of much more of its own budget after the fiscal settlement, with economic growth remaining weak, and with the implications of Brexit continuing to be unclear, Jim Cuthbert questions whether the code remains fit for purpose over a decade later.

He concludes that the kind of disaggregated system represented by the operation of the code is unlikely to be able to cope with the challenges it will face. There is a manifest danger that local authorities will find themselves over-committed, both in terms of traditional borrowing, and in terms of the contractual commitments they are undertaking through various forms of Public-Private Partnership, (like the Scottish Future’s Trust NPD (Non-Profit Distributing) schemes.) And, there is also the danger that, if times turn hard, authorities may be exposed to various forms of ‘off balance sheet’ debt, (arising, for example, from Arm’s Length External Organisations (ALEOs)), which are not adequately captured in the current operation of the code.

Read the paper in full JRFJCPrudentialcode

Stop Trident Renewal

Jan 19, 2017 Comments Off on Stop Trident Renewal

A major new research paper examining the economic, political and social costs of renewing the Trident nuclear missile system for Scotland by Professor Mike Danson, Karen Gilmore and Dr Geoff Whittam.  The authors make three sets of arguments against Trident’s renewal: i) the moral and philosophical case against renewal; ii) the economic case for non-renewal; and iii) the defence case for non-renewal.

The report also examines the impact of non-renewal in economic, social and military terms, specifically looking at the impact of job loss as a result of non-renewal and assesses the case for diversification in terms of skill redeployment and benefits.

Read the Policy Paper here Trident Report 24th Nov

Our Human Rights Respected Equally Delivered Fairly

Mar 03, 2016 Add a comment

Human rights are under attack from the UK Government.  Whilst human rights are explicitly supported by the Scottish Government, the real problem remains the failure of ‘duty bearers’ ie the public sector, to deliver on existing human rights obligations.  Fixing that problem should occupy the political energy and practical action of our elected politicians with a consequent gain of the public understanding that human rights are relevant and powerful in making our lives better, and Scotland fairer.

A YouGov poll for the Scottish Government in 2015 confirmed the difficulties in perception with one in five Scots saying human rights are for minority groups only and two in five Scots saying they have no bearing on their everyday life. Read full report here:  Human Rights 1 March

Democracy in the workplace

Feb 12, 2016 Add a comment

The paper outlines a number of proposals for (re-)establishing and extending democracy at work for consideration by the union movement. Firstly, it considers the manifest lack of democracy at work as management’s ability to act unilaterally or with the manufactured consent of workers has drastically increased over the last few decades. Then the paper outlines eight proposals which concern establishing the framework, institutions and processes for creating and enhancing democracy at work. Lastly, it discusses some of the issues involved in campaigning and mobilising to gain such reforms. JRFRightsandRespect

Fiscal Deal Woes

Jan 12, 2016 Add a comment

In the latter part of November 2015 the question of the fiscal settlement suddenly achieved a very high public profile. In large part, this was due to the publication of the report of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on 20 November (HOL 2015) which highlighted the potential very serious effects for Scotland if wrong decisions were made about the fiscal settlement, and argued that it was impossible to scrutinise the provisions of the current Scotland Bill properly until the details of the proposed settlement were known. About the same time, the IFS report was published, looking at options for adjusting Scotland’s block grant. Since the question of block grant adjustment will be at the very heart of the fiscal settlement, one might naturally expect that the IFS report will prove influential in the current negotiations.

What is argued in the first four sections of this paper is that the IFS report represents a flawed assessment of the options for adjusting the Scottish government block grant: and that there are significant dangers for Scotland of falling into a fiscal trap if the current negotiations take the IFS report as a basis.    Section 5 of this report then goes on to look at a range of block grant adjustment options, covering a much wider perspective than the narrow focus of the IFS report. The conclusion reached is that the type of option on which the IFS concentrate, which would involve Scotland having to match the economic performance of the rest of the UK or face severe penalties, poses unacceptable risks for Scotland in the light of the Scottish government’s limited economic powers.   JRFCuthbertSmithpaper Jan 2016

Transparency of Fiscal Negotiations

Dec 01, 2015 Add a comment

Many of the Smith Commission proposals were embodied, (sometimes in modified form), in the Scotland Bill which is currently going through the parliamentary process. However, important details of the fiscal arrangements of the reforms were not spelled out – either in the Smith report, or in the Scotland Bill. Instead, the details of the so called fiscal settlement were left to be agreed in negotiation between the Westminster and Scottish governments.

Although we still know nothing about what is happening in these secret negotiations, nevertheless, in the latter part of November the whole question of the fiscal settlement suddenly achieved a very high public profile. Critique IFS Report

Workers Rights are Human Rights

Nov 12, 2015 Add a comment

This paper sets out the case for treating human rights as workers’ rights and urges the adoption of consistent definitions for those rights. It  argues that human rights are a powerful tool for workers that, so far, has been under-utilised and recommends that workers need to know more about the detail as well as how to assert them.   Workers Rights are Human Rights

Invest in Our Ports

Nov 12, 2015 Add a comment

Trade development is rightly considered a central pillar of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy . However, there is very limited national emphasis on improving Scotland’s vital transport infrastructure such as ports or shipping connections that are essential for international trade. In addition, it is not clear that the Scottish Government has the necessary policies in place to facilitate the required scale of growth in specific trade sectors in order to meet its objectives. Economic growth & Scottish Ports

Better Data to Grow our Economy

Oct 31, 2015 Add a comment

This paper examines how well Scotland is served by the UK and Scottish Governments and by their agencies in international trade and development support. There are two aspects which require to be addressed: whether the current management of trade support agencies is likely to achieve the objectives of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy; whether the quality of the databases available, and the most fundamental tool by which to judge performance, are up to the task in hand.    Trade-and-development1