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20 August 2014
DWP staff guidance on referendum ‘patronising’ says union

DWP staff guidance on referendum ‘patronising’ says union

Guidance on the Scottish independence referendum issued by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to its civil servants is “poorly written, ill-judged and patronising”, according to a union representing civil servants in north of the border.

A memo issued on 19 August in the name of DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux instructed “it is legitimate and necessary” for UK civil servants to support the UK government’s opposition to independence.

However, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) says the memo may be interpreted by staff in Scotland as telling them how to vote in the referendum.

PCS Scottish Secretary Lynn Henderson said:  “Civil servants are all too aware of both the UK and Scottish Governments respective positions on independence. They remain bound by the civil service code. The wording of this memo is not only clumsy but it also seeks to blame lower graded civil servants for not understanding the instruction on how to conduct themselves as civil servants rather than as voting citizens in a democracy.”

The Public & Commercial Services Union represents over 250,000 members in the civil and public services and in the privatised commercial sector, over 27,000 of which are in Scotland.​

In February the union voted not to take a side in the referendum debate in a consultative conference with branches, but rather to “campaign for a Scotland that is progressive, fair and committed to the values of public service.”

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