Scottish trade unions hope concordat spells less PFI

18 Apr 02
A new 'concordat' between unions and the Scottish Executive could result in fewer private finance deals being signed north of the border, according to the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

19 April 2002

The concordat – or memorandum of understanding – was signed by First Minister Jack McConnell on April 15 at the opening of the STUC annual conference in Perth. It promises to 'extend opportunities' for the unions to influence policy, and guarantees twice-yearly meetings between the STUC and the first minister.

STUC general secretary Bill Spiers, hailing the concordat as an 'historic change', was confident it would reduce the use of Private Finance Initiative and public-private partnership deals. The Scottish Executive and the government were making a serious mistake by going down the PFI route, he said.

However, a Scottish Executive spokesman stressed that the use of private finance is 'only one of a range of issues' up for discussion with the STUC. 'There is a lot of controversy surrounding PFIs and PPPs,' he told Public Finance. 'At this stage we are still considering how to formally engage with the unions on these and other issues.'

The Scottish National Party is sceptical about the concordat's impact on levels of private investment in public services. 'The day after it was signed, a huge row blew up over a private finance deal for the prisons,' a spokesman said. 'Scottish staff are losing out from private finance deals because Tupe (Transfer of Undertakings) regulations are not enshrined in law.'

Rates of private investment in public services rose five times faster in Scotland over the past four years than in the UK as a whole. Last year Scotland accounted for nearly half the UK's capital spending by private sector preferred bidders.


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