SLP rule changes

This year’s Scottish Labour Party conference has agreed substantial changes to the Scottish Labour Party’s rule book.

The current rule book is a slim volume. It would fit into your bag or coat, so you can discuss the finer points of Clause 10(b)(2) with your pals down at the pub on a Friday night. That joy is going to be a bit trickier in future, because the new rule book is a substantial beast, more suited as a door wedge than a light read. A proper grown up rule book – it even has appendices!

So why?

This all goes back to 2015 and a joint agreement between Kez and Jeremy that the Scottish Labour Party would become more autonomous. A joint SEC/NEC working party worked up the details and that was followed by a consultation across the Scottish Labour Party. The last UK Labour Party conference agreed to changes in their rule book and today conference incorporated those changes into our own rule book. The opportunity has been taken to tidy up a few out of date provisions and omissions at the same time.

The main changes are:

Clarifying that conference can debate reserved or devolved matters. Any differences between Scottish and UK Labour policy will be resolved at the Joint Policy Committee and the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party will represent the positions taken at this conference on reserved matters.

A new Clause 16 devolves the selection of candidates for Westminster elections. The procedural rules will be set out by the SEC in an appendix.

In practice local government devolved some years ago, but the rule changes were not fully implemented. Clause 15 now covers the rules for Labour Groups and again the detailed rules with be in an appendix, together with procedural rules for candidate selections. And yes, that includes the rules that require any coalition agreements to be approved by the SEC.

The SEC also takes full responsibility for the organisation and management of CLPs and other units of party organisation in Scotland. Again there will be detailed rules for these in appendices.

The remaining changes are tidying up and confirming practices that have been in place for some time, but not confirmed in the rule book. Sadly, I still don’t qualify as a youth delegate!

These rule changes mark a significant journey in creating a more autonomous and democratic Scottish Labour Party. As the party of devolution we have not always moved as quickly as we should have done to keep our own organisation in line with political devolution. That has now changed.

Scotland needs economic as well as political power

While political structures are important, what really matters is the distribution of wealth and power.

The Scottish Labour Party conference tomorrow will debate a motion on federalism that takes Labour much further than it has ever gone before in devolving political power away from London. The Scottish Government may soon fire the starting pistol for another referendum on independence. Both of these developments are obviously important, but they mean little if we don’t also address economic structures.

The UK constitutional convention called for in the motion to the Scottish Labour Party conference is the brain child of Jon Trickett MP. He was in Glasgow last Friday, addressing trade unions on how he wants to take the convention forward, drawing his inspiration from the constitutional convention that drove the devolution agenda in Scotland, rather the more usual government commission. He said:

“In my mind, our socialism requires three things:

  1. a federal solution for Britain which breaks up the centralised power of the British Westminster elite and hands decision making about local matters to local people;
  2. redistribution of wealth and power so that we can rebuild a socially just country based on a strong economy in every region and nation and not just in a few affluent areas;
    3. the cooperation and solidarity between all the parts of the country which will mean the pooling of common resources to make sure that there is more equity.

So this is why the Labour Party is committed to a constitutional convention. It’s because the political structures aren’t working any more. Instead, they have been a primary factor in the long-term decline of areas outside of London and the South.”

However, his key point comes in this paragraph:

“Political reform is necessary. But it is not sufficient to solve our problems. As I’ve said, it does not change the economic structures which have allowed our regions and nations to be left behind. We cannot solve this problem with just more devolution of political power on its own because we also need fundamental change to the way our economy works.”

The Red Paper Collective has expanded on these themes in their latest publication on Progressive Federalism. Jon’s introductory chapter builds on his theme of addressing economic power. My chapter ‘Scotland is not our local’ makes the case for double devolution of power from Westminster to local communities, something Jon Trickett reinforced in his Glasgow speech. John Foster shows just how little economic power resides in Scotland. Even the small foothold we had has largely disappeared since 2005 as the table below shows.

scot company takeovers

Other authors show how much more we could achieve if we focused on taking democratic control of our economy, developing a real industrial strategy, including energy and renewables. Using taxation powers to build a better education system and other public services. And finally, using the powers that should be devolved post-Brexit as an opportunity for radical reform.

The bottom line is when we focus simply on political structures, we are missing the bigger picture. Unless we challenge the economic structures that control Scotland’s economy – political structures; independence, federalism or unionism, will count for very little. That’s why a wider look at power through a constitutional convention is a meaningful initiative.
You can discuss these issues at the Revitalise/Red Paper conference fringe meeting on Saturday 25th February at The Royal George Hotel, Perth, starting at 12:30pm.

Red Federalism: A radical solution

Join us at the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth at our fringe meeting on Red Federalism: a radical solution. Hosted by UNISON Labour Link Scotland.

Our comrades at the Red Paper will be launching their latest paper on federalism at this event.

Saturday 25 February 2017, Royal George Hotel, starting at 12:30pm.

Speakers:

Neil Findlay MSP and Lesley Brennan.

SEC elections – CLP section

Results of the SEC – CLP Section election. The candidates elected are as follows:

West Scotland and Mid Scotland and Fife

Johanna Baxter
Cara Hilton

Central Scotland and Glasgow

Angela Feeney
Stephen Low

Lothian and South Scotland

Scott Arthur
Ann Henderson

North East Scotland and Highlands and Islands

Linda Stewart
Lesley Brennan

Full detailed results will be published at Scottish Conference later this month.

SEC report – January 2017

The Scottish Executive Committee met last Saturday (Jan 17) in Stirling. There was a good turnout of local government candidates at the training day in the same venue.

Alex Rowley gave the Leader’s report in Kezia’s absence. He focused on the parliamentary response to the SNP’s local government budget cuts and the launch of the framework manifesto. A number of members referenced the support some groups needed to sharpen up local campaigns with reference to the ‘Scrap the Debt’ campaign and other ideas in the STULP ‘Workforce Agenda’.

Parliamentary debates continued to dominated by Brexit, with only three Bills introduced since the election. There was a welcome for the common stance on the constitution in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Glasgow. Difference over substance is to be expected, that’s what devolution brings, but we should avoid mixed messages on use of language.

Mary Fee MSP, on behalf of the parliamentary group, highlighted the NHS campaign that is challenging the poor management of the service under the SNP. The Tories making an even worse mess in England, isn’t a credible excuse. Campaigns on bus re-regulation and Scotrail had also been effective.

Local government representatives highlighted the 4.8% cut in their budget allocation and the pressures that was placing on local budget setting. The minister was setting deadlines without parliamentary approval.

The General Secretary reported on fundraising and financial plans. 78% of council selections had been completed. In practice this is better than past years given low take up areas. It was agreed to waive 12 month rule, although with appropriate checks and balances.

Scottish Labour has made a submission to the Westminster boundary review, based on local consensus responses. The current proposals are based on existing wards which will change. So the second stage is likely to bring more changes.

Future Community Leaders Programme was agreed. 125 applications had been received and 20 will be selected in each year of the 3 year programme. The candidates selected cover a range of ages, experience, gender etc.

A complaint had been received regarding the use of email addresses in SEC elections. It was reluctantly recognised that the rules could not be changed at this stage, but any breach of the rules by candidates or their supporters would be dealt with by the Constitutional Committee.

The conference programme was discussed. Tom Watson, Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn would all be speaking. Contemporary motions would be considered throughout conference rather than just on Sunday. Votes will be handled electronically so it is important that delegates register by the deadline.

The Constitution Committee will meet to agree the necessary rule book amendments following the changes agreed at UK conference.