Scotland the Blog: After The Hangover and the Homecoming The High Stakes

This will be a Hogmanay few of us forget. I don’t mean how wet it was! This could be the last Hogmanay we spend knowing Scotland is part of the UK. On September the 18th Scots vote on independence. There cannot be a more momentous issue in our lifetimes. I have been boning up on the Scottish History I neglected at University, given how the shroud of history is often waved in this debate. If you want to do likewise, I can recommend nothing better than Tom Devine’s Scotland: Story of A Nation. Devine based at Aberdeen University and our foremost Scottish historian takes us right back to before 1707, when the Scottish elite ruined by their attempted imperialist venture in Darien signed up for the union.

The most vocal and hardy opponent of union then was the Church of Scotland. The Kirk was also a big mover in setting up the constitutional convention which led to devolution. The act of union is of course a mirror to the referendum debate. It hardly surprising that the arguments though taking place against completely different political and socio-economic background largely revolved around politics and the economy.

I have already highlighted the White Paper by the SNP and spoken on its strengths and weaknesses. At least that’s on the basis of the information which has been shared. However the flakiness of the debate which is characterised by much vigour and litter rigour means it’s difficult to really value the options. The White Paper Scotland’s Future has not so far been matched by a pro union document of similar scope. We in CIPD Scotland would like to see that to balance the debate. We are especially concerned to know what the pro union side has in store for the workplace. Yet since the labour market and skills are a massive part of Scotland’s future. We want to ignite a discussion is around the momentous reforms proposed in this area. The Yes Campaign has set out its stall, and their proposals are significant and far reaching.

There are four key planks:

  • a Fair Work Commission: This sounds like a good idea but what will be its shape remit and composition? How will it set minimum wages in line with productivity?
  • universal child care sounds good but can we assume that the opportunity costs of current expenditure on childcare will automatically translate into GDP growth? This initiative has been complicated by a new focus on free school meals, which the Scottish government has promised from next year.
  • Scotland’s perspective on welfare is different but how do we propose to deal with the problems of workers who have been disengaged long term from the labour market. Active labour market policies are necessary people drift into idleness and you don’t need to be a heartless Gradgrind to think that needs fixing.
  • Scotland’s will be more welcoming to immigration and talent but this commitment needs to be balanced with the challenges of our existing labour market.

These are the big questions and we will be running a lot of activity on this in the New Year, exploring a joint conference with a key media partner and hosting a number of key meetings. It’s also an opportunity for our policy network to get together. The White Paper and the independence vote will be a central talking point at our CIPD Scotland conferences. Our Student Conference on 22nd February will be focusing on the major HR issues but the issue will be prominent. Shortly after On 6th and 7th of March our award winning Scottish Conference will feature an opening keynote by Google and a closing one by Facebook. This couldn’t be better timed to capturing the workplace zeitgeist. We will also be discussing Scotland’s Skilled Future as well as every other aspect of work, workforce and workplace.

In June Scotland will be hosting the Commonwealth games and my home town of Glasgow (just voted one of the top ten places in the world to visit) will be the venue. However the event will belong to the whole of Scotland and indeed the commonwealth. Scotland will also be hosting a homecoming and encouraging people to connect with our country. It’s also appropriate given the role of volunteering in developing a successful games, that we will be recognising throughout the year the contribution of our volunteer network through the PACE awards. It’s true to say that without our network of CIPD Scotland volunteers we would not be in the game.

So a momentous year in prospect and it could be a very different Hogmanay next year, but whatever happens CIPD will be at the centre.

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