Nurses union accused of 'hounding out' Scottish policy officer over trans rights work

A former part-time policy officer has revealed she felt forced out of her job with Scotland’s Royal College of Nursing, after being investigated for more than two months for contributing to an academic paper on changes to the Census questions on sex and gender.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:38 pm

Lisa Mackenzie, one third of policy group MurrayBlackburnMackenzie, said the period during which she was under investigation was “the most stressful experience” in her career and that she was never told which RCN Scotland policies and procedures she had breached.

In a blog post, the mother-of-two from Edinburgh said the episode “profoundly shook my self-confidence, even beyond the point of my resignation”.

She said the “process was the punishment” and the “prospect of remaining in post without knowing what my ‘crime’ was, was beyond the pale”.

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Lisa Mackenzie
Lisa Mackenzie

The 49-year-old, who joined the nurses’ union as a part-time policy officer in 2017, said the “Kafkaesque” investigation began when she alerted her employers to a paper she co-authored on the Scottish Census.

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She had previously informed them of her work with two other policy analysts – Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Dr Kath Murray – and had completed a “declaration of interest form” that had not prompted any concerns.

After sharing the academic paper on the Census with her managers before it was published in the Scottish Affairs journal, she was called into an “urgent meeting to which I was invited to bring my union representative”.

She adds: “I was told that I was being investigated for potential disciplinary action as a result of breach of my contract and for failing to adhere to the RCN’s declaration of interest policy.

“I was deeply shaken by this, particularly as I had explicitly gone through the conflict-of-interest process. I barely slept for days and felt extremely anxious.”

She says she was then interviewed “by someone in the RCN’s Governance team in London via Skype" and “questioned extensively” about her work beyond her job. This resulted in being told there would be no disciplinary action, “but that I was to enter discussion with my line manager about how to ‘manage’ my external work”.

She then says she spent six weeks “in a succession of frustrating meetings”.

“I continually asked what guidance had been given to RCN staff who I had witnessed working on other contentious issues outside of their role in the organisation, but none was forthcoming,” she said.

“But what frustrated me most of all was that the fact that no-one could tell me which of my views were problematic from the RCN’s perspective, despite my asking repeatedly.”

The tipping point that prompted her resignation, she said, was a meeting when her manager “suggested that the best way forward might be for me to reflect on my ‘values’”.

“I was upset and furious at the implication that my ‘values’ were somehow defective … I no longer had any confidence that the RCN would treat me in a way that was fair and reasonable with regards to my external work,” she said.

"I handed in my notice with immediate effect.”

An RCN spokesman said: “An investigation took place two years ago solely into the potential breach of contract. No one was investigated for their political or private views. No further action was taken.”

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