Scotland

General News, Articles and Information from The POA North of the Border:

18.12.2013

2013 Scottish Conference

Delegates from all 17 branches of the POA in Scotland took part; debating motions on behalf of their branch membership and developing POA(S) policy going forward.

On opening conference the Scottish National Chairman welcomed the delegates and invited guests and reflected on the issues impacting on the Union both in Scotland and across the UK as a whole, in the previous 12 months and into the future.

Notable amongst these was the continuing dismay felt by our members regarding the lack of progress being made across the UK in respect of pensions and the prospect of working until the age of 68. It was noted that the delegates would have the opportunity to express their views throughout conference and in particular on Motion 12 on the paper which considered the question of support for the ‘YES’ campaign in the run-up to the referendum in 2014.

It was with considerable emphasis that the Chairman pointed out that it was for Scottish Conference to decide on the way forward for the Union, whatever that may be, and would not be compromised or determined by the political bias of any single member either on the SNC or amongst the conference delegates.

It is fast becoming apparent that Scottish Conference would not be the same without the shedding of a tear or 10 and this year was no different. Emotions run deep within the conference hall and these are often driven by disappointment or anger at the way our members are sometimes treated, but occasionally, they are reflections of the genuine care and respect we hold for each other past and present. Such was the case this year on two different levels.

Sad farewells

Scottish Conference 2013 said a sad farewell to two long-serving establishments in the north east of Scotland, each with their own distinct history and each with their unique contribution to the Scottish public, the SPS and above all to the loyalty and dedication to the POA and the Scottish Prison Officers Association, before it. Over the years, both branches have produced many fine representatives serving to protect and advance members’ interests without fear of favour.

Malky Still Memorial Award

No less a person in the form of Alan (Del) Shannon, long-standing Chairman of Peterhead, was to become the well-deserved recipient of the Malky Still Memorial Award. The award, in honour of the late Vice Chairman, is given for outstanding contribution to the POA and is only presented as occasion demands and on this occasion it was particularly poignant given the presence of Malky’s children, Natalie, Stephanie and Darryl.

It was a period of mixed emotions for Conference; a sombre moment of reflection for the loss at an early age of a well respected friend and Vice Chairman was combined with the gratitude and recognition for the work carried out over the years by Del.

Kenny MacAskill, MSP

But as always, Conference lifts itself and prepares to carry on the business. First amongst the speakers invited to address the hall was Kenny MacAskill, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

The Minister is a ‘well kent’ face to Conference and has addressed it on many occasions, and it is true to say that his message of thanks for the contribution of prison officers towards creating a safer Scotland was as well received as it was genuinely offered. In his address he took the opportunity to reflect upon the achievements made in the Scottish prison service and the Scottish Government’s continued belief that such services will stay in the domain of the public sector. To Conference delight he confirmed the commitment of the Scottish Government to address the retirement age of prison officers at the point they are able to do so, recognising that our role, like some other uniformed services are restricted by issues of age and capacity. A very welcome and salient commitment to our members.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Addressing Conference this year for the first time was the new HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, David Strang QPM. A former Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders police and Dumfries and Galloway, David served on the Prisons Commission, led by former First Minister, Henry McLeish and took up post in June this year.

The Chief Inspector spoke of his impressions in his short period in office and how he was impressed by what he saw in the levels of innovation and commitment from staff and the positive relationships that exist. He considered that much of the best practice he identified appeared not to be shared across the estate to the extent it should be and that this should be explored.

Reflecting upon the introduction of the Independent Monitoring Boards (which replace the Visiting Committee) he noted the previous good and valuable work carried out by the Visiting Committees and would seek to see this continue through the Independent Monitoring Board with the oversight of the Prisons Inspectorate.

Motion 12

Thereafter, the focus of Conference moved to the debate of conference motions and forming POA(S) policy. As ever, the delegates sought to promote the view of the membership in a well-informed and considered manner offering good standard of debate throughout the two days. Although each motion to conference was given the appropriate recognition it deserves without doubt the most intriguing motion was that scheduled as Motion 12.

It merits mention here, not because of the terms of the motion but for the mature and dignified way that conference delegates engaged with the issue. It is testimony to the positive atmosphere that has returned to Scottish Conference that a motion seeking to address such an emotive issue and had the potential to divide the delegates, was moved, debated and decided upon, professionally and with dignity. They are a credit to themselves and to this Union.

Speakers

Over the two days, Conference heard from Steve Gillan, the General Secretary and PJ McParlin, the National Chairman who outlined the difficulties our Union faces against an intransigent and disruptive UK Government and reflecting on the difficult year that the POA had experienced internally. Nonetheless, despite the barriers to progress they delivered their strong commitment to carry on and continue the fight to protect members and seek to ensure whatever the circumstances that establishments were safe secure and decent.

Charity fund raising

Another welcome speaker to Conference was John Renton MBE the Honorary Life Member and ex-General Secretary of the POA(S) who passed on his fraternal greetings from the HLMs in attendance. John took the opportunity to inform Conference of the challenge being undertaken by his son Chris to run 10 marathons in 10 days around Lake Windermere, one of the toughest and unforgiving road races in the UK. Chris is taking this on to raise funds for the Brathay Trust. A charity that “specialises in engaging and inspiring young people, many of whom are experiencing difficulties with their lives. Our unique approach supports their personal and social development, critical awareness, aspirations and life chances.” A charity that clearly resonates with our Conference as the delegates agreed to donate the monies raised from the raffle to be held that evening and which made £875, and with the contribution from Gift Aid this resulted in well over £1,000 going to Chris’s appeal. Exceptional.

Aberdeen and Peterhead

The close of Conference sadly saw the POA Scotland say goodbye to Aberdeen and Peterhead. Both Karen and Del spoke highly of their establishments and the members who work in them, and recognised the contribution from representatives past and present who continue to offer help and support when required. The emotion was heartfelt in the hall and judging by the acclaim with which both speakers where acknowledged, Conference recognised the respect and dignity shown and above all, the contribution made by both branches over the years. An emotional end to Conference which led us back to where we started…in tears!

Finally, we place on record our thanks to the staff and management of the Cardrona Hotel who ably assisted in the delivery of Conference. A special mention of thanks to Kathryn and Lorraine and our stewards who work tirelessly before, during and after Conference to make Scottish Conference the successful event it has become.

Overall a very successful Scottish Conference and we look forward to the exciting year ahead.

Andy Hogg
Assistant General Secretary
Scotland