Heritage staff describe dispersal decision as a waste of tax payers’ money


Heritage staff describe dispersal decision as a waste of tax payers’ money

Unions representing staff at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have pledged to fight proposals from the Scottish Executive to transfer over 250 jobs from Edinburgh to Inverness.

Members of Prospect and PCS will gather at 11am tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh to express their outrage after being told they face compulsory redundancy if they fail to agree to the relocation.

The decision, announced last week by the Scottish Executive, has dismayed staff at the heritage agency who claim that the move is a waste of tax payers’ money and will affect the quality of work undertaken to protect Scotland’s natural resources. SNH’s Board has also told ministers that any move to Inverness should be rejected as a viable option.

While the trade unions support the policy of moving jobs out of the capital when undertaken on a voluntary basis, they argue that Scottish Natural Heritage is already one of the most widely dispersed public bodies with over 70% of staff working in offices in Clydebank, Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness itself.

An alternative proposal drawn up by the unions, which would see up to 50% of the Edinburgh posts voluntarily dispersed to SNH’s existing 40 offices across Scotland, was rejected by Environment Minister Ross Finnie in favour of relocation to Inverness.

Alan Denney, Prospect negotiator, described the decision as "tantamount to pouring public money down the drain." He said: "The dispersal policy aims to allow the whole of Scotland to share public sector posts where it is cost efficient. But this proposal will result in up to 90% of the headquarters staff being made redundant at a cost to the public purse of up to £20m.

"The Executive was warned that it will lose invaluable expertise after a survey of staff last year revealed that more than 87% would refuse the move north because of family or other commitments.

"But these are the staff tasked with implementing the recent Nature Conservation Bill and the Land Reform Bill. Ministers have to ask themselves how this will be possible if, rather than allowing staff to remain close to the heart of decision making, they are being forced out of the organisation."

Unions are calling for the financial propriety of the decision to be investigated urgently.

Note: Prospect represents 120 members in Edinburgh working as highly specialised scientific, policy and advisory staff. PCS also has 120 members at SNH’s Edinburgh headquarters employed in administration, personnel, finance and IT.