SEC – September 2017

With the resignation of Kez Dugdale, the planned SEC away day was abandoned. Instead the SEC primarily focused on the procedures for the leadership election.

The Chair started the meeting by thanking Kez and referenced the two excellent by-election results. There was plenty of support from members in both campaigns and a 10% increase in the Labour vote shows the party is in good shape for the campaigns ahead.

Kevin Lindsay resigned his place on the SEC and therefore as Vice-Chair. Cathy Peattie was elected as Vice-Chair. The resulting vacancy as Treasurer was filled by Ian Miller.

Alex Rowley gave the Interim Leader’s report. He covered the very positive (despite the daft media coverage) elected members away day. The planned campaigns will continue despite the leadership election and arrangements are being put in place to strengthen campaign support to council groups. The Scottish Government’s new programme had no less than ten of Labour’s manifesto pledges in it.

There was a detailed discussion around all aspects of the procedures for the leadership election, although mostly around administrative practicalities like email systems. The detailed procedures are set out here.

Key dates
Monday 11 September – Nominations open for Leader
Saturday 16 September – Nomination Hustings for MSPs, MPs and MEPs
Sunday 17 September – Nominations close. Validly nominated candidates for Leadership to be published
Monday 18 September – Supporting nominations open.  Scottsh Labour Party hustings period opens.
Monday 9 October – Last date to join as member, affiliated supporter, or registered supporter, in order to vote in the Leadership ballot.
Friday 13 October – Supporting nominations close
Friday 27 October – Ballot opens.  Scottish Labour Party hustings period closes
Friday 17 November at 12noon – Ballot closes
Saturday 18 November – Result announced

Key points to note are the freeze dates as above and that CLP nominations must come from all member meetings. Registered supporters will pay a £12 fee. A ‘Build to Win’ recruitment pack will be going out to party units.

Procedures were also agreed for the election of young members and councillor seats on the SEC.

Scottish conference next year will be held in Dundee on 9-11 March.

SEC report – July 2017

This was the first SEC since the general election. It started with a presentation on the campaign and the outcome, together with some thoughts on next steps.

Scottish Labour’s recovery from 15% polling at the start of the year, to 20% in the local elections and 27% in the general election, demonstrates real progress. Five out of six target seats were won and two more from the second tier.

There was a big thank you to the candidates and their teams for the huge effort they personally put in, in some cases without as much local support as they deserved. Many candidates volunteered at a time when this looked like a hopeless task and the careerists went missing. They reflected an authenticity in the campaign from Jeremy downwards.

The meeting also congratulated Lesley Laird on her appointment as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

SEC members contributed a range of views on the campaign and where we should go from here. The trade unions also shared their feedback from member campaigns. The big shift in voting intention came late in the campaign and this was largely thanks to the positive manifesto. As ever there was a debate on the fine balancing act between messaging on the constitution and austerity. There was limited evidence of tactical voting in some seats, but the Tory vote has to be addressed in Labour’s strategy going forward.

The September meeting will give further consideration to the campaign going forward. However, there will be a busy summer of campaign events and Jeremy is planning to come to Scotland three times before September. SEC members indicated that they would also welcome other shadow cabinet members coming to Scotland. The election had enthused our membership and supporter base and it was vital that we build on that momentum.

With the risk of another UK general election, consideration was given to selecting candidates. There are a number of considerations, not least the possibility of boundary changes. Members wanted to ensure that we retained the 50:50 gender balance of candidates as well as other underrepresented groups. There was also a need to review the rules for selection contests to ensure there is a level playing field for all potential candidates. It was therefore agreed that while we need to progress the selection of candidates, the constitution committee would give detailed consideration to these issues and report to the September meeting.

On local government, the SEC congratulated Alison Evison on her election as President of COSLA. There will be a meeting of council Labour groups on 15 August to look at how groups can be supported and political strategies better coordinated. SEC members also indicated that there was a need to look at how the Local Campaign Forum structure was operating.

The panel appointed to consider power sharing arrangements reported to the SEC. Ten requests had been received from Labour groups. Several had been sent back for further consideration and three rejected. Aberdeen councillors had been suspended and a formal disciplinary investigation would be initiated.

A motion was received from one CLP questioning if their Labour group had broken the rules. This will be investigated and report brought to the next meeting.

Finally, a report was presented on new structures for women’s forums and the UK women’s conference. A task group will work up new arrangements in Scotland.

SEC Report – May 2017

This was the first SEC meeting after the local elections, but it was also the annual meeting. Linda Stewart was elected Chair and Kevin Lindsay was elected Vice-Chair. Cathy Peattie continues as Treasurer.

Kez reported on the very few highlights in the Scottish Parliament at present. There remains very little legislation and the Scottish Government uses the chamber debates for broader political purposes. The recent ‘rape clause’ debate was good example. Labour will continue to highlight the Scottish Government’s day job, with a debate on health this week.

Kez also reports on her attendance at NEC meetings that have been focused on candidate selection in England. There are draft dates for the UK campaign launch and manifesto following the Clause 5 meeting. There will be a similar process in Scotland for the Scottish manifesto.

There was a brief interim analysis of the local government elections. While the results were not good compared with 2012, the outcome was better than 2016 and significantly better than recent opinion polls with Labour claiming 22% of the seats. Not the predicted wipe out and some positives including 48% of Labour Councillors elected for the first time. Given the lack of political awareness amongst many councillors, some new blood can only be positive.

Several members pointed to the irony that PR benefited Labour in this election, given the views of many councillors over the years. Labour’s effective voter organisation paid off, as did the 2nd preference strategy. There is still a problem over rejected papers and that showed up particularly in postal votes. More education is needed on the voting system.

The binary constitution question remains the challenging issue for Scottish Labour. There was a predictable range of views on how to address this ranging from those who want to take a more overt unionist position, to those who believe such a strategy is a dead end. The federalism plan is not in itself a vote winner, but it does give Labour a distinct position on the constitution, while our focus remains on substantive issues. There was plenty of feedback from the doorsteps that many voters can see how little the SNP is delivering while they, and the Tories, obsess over flags.

The data will be used to inform targeting for the general election. Media reports on which seats Labour is targeting in Scotland are inaccurate. Jeremy is planning two visits to Scotland during the campaign. The final list of General Election candidates was circulated. The panel had unanimously agreed these.

The MEP report said it was business as usual in the European Parliament. Brexit has ironically created unity amongst the 27 on their bargaining position. Catherine highlighted the Irish Government’s paper on Brexit as a considered read.

The main item for discussion was the framework for coalition agreements. All Labour groups will be reminded that the rules require SEC agreement for any local arrangements. The framework does not rule out local agreements with any party, but they have to be based on opposing austerity. That won’t be easy given that Tory austerity has been dumped on councils by SNP. The policy basis is the two local government motions from UNISON and the GMB agreed at conference. There was a strong view that a period of opposition would enable a more overtly political approach, so missing in recent years.

Finally, the new rule book agreed at conference has been published Scottish Rule Book 2017.

SEC Report – April 2017

There was a special SEC last Saturday following the announcement that there will be a General Election on 8 June.

Kezia reported on the arrangements that had been put in place including her attendance at the UK NEC meeting earlier in the week. She also reminded the SEC that we still had important local government elections to focus on.

She welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s unequivocal position rejecting any so a called progressive alliance with the SNP. The SNP not a progressive political party. One of the very few Bill’s that they have introduced in the Scottish Parliament is the Airport Departure Tax – a regressive tax cut for more wealthy households at the expense of vital public services and the environment.

It was hoped that Jeremy would make several visits to Scotland, starting with the STUC on Monday.

The manifesto process will also be condensed, and it is hoped that the Scottish manifesto will be published earlier than it was in the last general election. The starting point would be the 2016 manifesto updated with the Party’s latest initiatives. Of course none of this binds the policy process for the next Scottish Parliament election.

The main business was to agree a process for the selection of candidates. This process has been devolved to Scotland in accordance with the new rules establishing a more autonomous Scottish Labour Party.

While there is always a preference to have local selection meetings, it was recognised that this is simply not practical. Organising 59 selection conferences over a couple of days is logistically hugely difficult, but more importantly, it would be a huge distraction from local election campaigns.

Applications to be a candidate have been widely publicised and there had been a substantial response. Candidates have to be members for at least 12 months, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

It was agreed that a panel of 7 SEC members would be established to select candidates 2 TU, 2 CLP, 2 from balance of the SEC, plus Kezia. There is an expectation that at least 50% of candidates will be female.

There was also an update on the local government election. The next SEC meeting will consider a framework for approving any coalition agreements. The focus will be on delivering Scottish Labour’s anti-austerity policy.

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.