AS a former trade union activist of many years it was with more than a little degree of scepticism that I read the piece from Stephen Smellie, depute convenor of Unison Scotland in Monday’s National (It’s nonsense to suggest party bias in strike action).

In his defence of his Unison colleague Johanna Baxter – head of local government for Unison in Scotland – Mr Smellie stated that Ms Baxter had been a Labour Party activist for many years and that it was not unusual for a trade union employee to be in such a position. While I have no argument with that particular contention, I did note his omission to mention that Johanna Baxter is also a director of the organisation known as Scotland in Union which campaigns against a second Scottish independence referendum.

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I would ask Mr Smellie if, given funding of Scotland in Union comes from figures within the British establishment, including friends of royal family members, assorted multi-millionaires, landowners, asset managers and well known figures within the Edinburgh financial industry, is it not rather unusual for a full-time official of a trade union to be a director of such an organisation?

Should Mr Smellie wish to check out where this information came from I would refer him to the excellent article on the subject of Scotland in Union’s funding written by Martin Hannan in The National of April 28 2018.

When I listened to Johanna Baxter being interviewed on Radio Scotland last Friday she attempted to defend Unison’s position on the pay offer by pointing to the source of the funding for it. My own experience as a former trade union activist during pay negotiations was always to be more concerned about the amount that was going to end up in our members’ pockets and not where the employer was going to find it from to put it there. That particular argument was a new one on me and the fact that the two other trade unions involved in the dispute (the GMB and Unite) didn’t appear to consider it to be an obstacle to a settlement at this stage rendered Ms Baxter and Unison’s position even stranger to my eyes.

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Stephen Smellie should also be aware that some of us who have been around the trade union movement and involved in Scottish party politics have long memories, and it is fair to say that when it comes to not always being even-handed in past dealings with regard to the SNP, Unison most certainly has form! I would refer him to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper of November 20 1994 which reported on the minutes of a meeting of the Scottish political committee of Unison which called for the need to make it “a priority to increase attacks on the SNP” and encouraged “improved surveillance on the operation of nationalist councillors”.

Three days later the actions of Unison were the subject of an Early Day Motion to the UK Parliament which was raised by Alex Salmond. On the same day I took it upon myself as an SNP-supporting trade unionist to speak to the late Bill Speirs, then deputy secretary of the STUC, to make my own views known on the matter. It is fair to say that he was not impressed by what the political committee of Unison was trying to do.

Stephen Smellie concluded his article by suggesting that The National and independence supporters need to do better by apologising to Johanna Baxter and supporting low-paid council workers. I would ask him, does he mean like the way the SNP-controlled Glasgow City Council supported thousands of its lower-paid women workers by honouring equal pay after the Labour Party had swerved doing so for the best part of a decade? As for apologising, some of us are far too long in the tooth to fall for that absolute cant.

Jim Finlayson