Fury as union announces support for No campaign without balloting members


  By a Newsnet reporter
News that a union is to support the anti-independence campaign has caused fury amongst many of its Scottish members after it emerged they would not be balloted.
The Scottish branch of the GMB has said it has decided to back a No vote and campaign for ‘further devolution’.

The union has claimed that a consultation it carried out showed the overwhelming number of respondents backed Scotland remaining in the UK.  Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Harry Donaldson, general secretary of GMB Scotland, said the union’s decision had been reached after a ‘long consultation’ with Scottish members.

He said that some were undecided and some wanted independence, but that the “overwhelming” response was for a No vote and ‘greater devolution’.

Sunday Herald reporter Tom Gordon, who broke the story, described the decision as “a blow to Alex Salmond and the Yes Scotland campaign”.

However members of the union have reacted angrily at the decision, which was taken without balloting the union’s Scottish members.

Head of the National Union of Journalists in Scotland, Paul Holleran who is also a member of the GMB called for a full debate of all of the union’s Scottish members.

He tweeted: “As a GMB member I want an all Scottish membership debate and vote on the issue of independence. Consultation essential.”

Others showed their disapproval by pledging to leave the union with some claiming they had not been consulted.  Many have claimed they were only made aware of the decision by reading Tom Gordon’s article in the Herald.

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie tweeted: “some very angry GMB members/Stewards contacting me outraged at stance union has taken without permission of members.”

There are also claims that the so-called consultation is nothing more than a cosmetic exercise with people pointing out that GMB consultation meetings in Kilmarnock, Glasgow and Dundee have not yet taken place.

According to a Unison activist who is also a member of the SNP, the GMB balloted its Scottish Committee on the move but did not ballot individual members.

There are now fears that the union’s leader in Scotland, Harry Donaldson, may be behind the decision to back the No campaign and has put the interests of the Labour party before the interests of Scotland.

Earlier this year Donaldson attacked Scottish independence warning that it could harm Labour: “If Scotland became independent in September 2014 there would be a loss of 40 labour MPs at Westminster – a major blow for the Labour Party achieving the return of a Labour government in the next General Election on May 7 2015, throwing doubt on the rest of the UK and its future political direction.” He told union delegates in June.

Last month Newsnet Scotland revealed Donaldson had used union cash in order to send signed letters to constituents in Dunfermline urging them to vote for Labour’s candidate Cara Hilton in the by-election.  Donaldson refused to respond to questions from Newsnet Scotland asking if the union’s Scottish GMB members had been consulted on the move.

The anti-independence campaign Better Together has welcomed the union’s decision to bypass its own members and support the No campaign.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, a spokesman said: “This is now the fifth major trade union to come out in support of a No vote next September.

“It is a clear sign that the bodies who represent workers in Scotland believe that we are stronger when we work together and that the principal of solidarity across the UK is much more powerful an argument than throwing up borders between people where none currently exist. We welcome this decision.”

There will now be fears that more senior officials in organisations will ignore the views of their Scottish members and opt to use the influence of their organisation in order to push their own views and agendas, and in doing so risk fragmenting the organisation.