SEC Report – September 2018

A relative short and sweet SEC meeting today, not just because it was my last!

Richard reported on his summer tour across Scotland and the issues raised with him. Housing was a particular concern and Pauline McNeil will be establishing a commission to look at this in detail. The absence of a coherent industrial strategy was another and he will be developing the current policy to reflect post-Brexit challenges.

He also reflected on the Scottish Government’s legislative programme. Some elements, such as mental health, Labour could support, but there were obvious gaps in areas like the Good Food Nation Bill and tackling the social care crisis. Mary Fee also reflected on these issues in her Holyrood report.

Lesley Laird focused on the Tory shambles over Brexit and Keir Starmer MP is coming to Scotland this month. She was also looking to develop Labour’s position on immigration policy in discussions with Diane Abbot.

David Ross reported on the ongoing ScotGov efforts to centralise education, the Local Governance review and challenges facing the integrated joint boards over social care. COSLA is exploring the prospects of some form of partnership agreement with ScotGov, but this would have to be based on recognition of spheres not tiers of government. Agreement had been reached with STULP on a Challenging Austerity statement and STULP had also produced a template on producing a citizens budget to support this.

The Women’s Conference will be held on 28 November and nomination forms will be going out next week.

Brian reported on the campaign packs and tabloid newsletters that were distributed during the summer. There had been a successful training programme, organised by STULP, for CLP TULO officers. Thirty members had been enrolled on the Gordon Aikman leadership programme and he circulated the revised Scottish new member’s booklet.

The Organisation Sub-Committee will look at the Scottish implications of the UK democracy review recommendations. This will be a significant piece of work with rule changes going to next year’s conference.

Almost all the Westminster target seat selections have now been completed. A paper on timetabling the remaining seats will come to the November meeting, along with proposals to begin the Scottish Parliament selections.

This will be my last report as it was my final SEC meeting due to the imminent retirement from my post at UNISON Scotland. I have been on the SEC since 2003 and I will particularly treasure the glossy version of the new Scottish Labour Party rules as well, of course, as the kind words from Richard and others. Given the behaviour in some parts of the party recently, my final advice came from Danton’s speech to the French Convention as the forces of reaction massed on the borders to crush the French Revolution.

In the ‘enemy at the gates speech’ he said; “Your discussions are shameful. I can see but the enemy. You tire me by squabbling. In place of occupying yourselves with the safety of the Republic!”

SEC Report – June 2018

A delayed start to the usually quiet June meeting due to a combination of the tragic Art School fire and an Orange Lodge march in the vicinity.

Richard Leonard welcomed the election of Lesley Laird as Deputy Leader. He pointed to effective opposition on issues like the independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside. A range of events will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS – one a Labour’s finest achievements in government. He welcomed recent visits by Shadow Cabinet members, which showed the value of our UK links.

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He deplored the Tory Brexit shambles and the insufficient debating time at Westminster, while pointing to the irony of the SNP posing over devolution when they were at best late entrants to the cause. Like the Tories, their actions seek to undermine devolution. He still hoped that Scottish Labour’s attempt to fine a compromise would be picked up, but Labour will continue to be the defenders of devolution.

He highlighted the the SNP’s Growth Commission report as evidence of a return to right-wing economic policies, with austerity plans that were worse than George Osborne’s. He was equally scathing about Tory attempts to portray themselves as in any way progressive – as highlighted by the actions of Christopher Chope MP in talking out the members bill on up skirting.

His key message was that Scottish Labour will be the party of the radical tradition, focusing on the issues that really matter to working people – including jobs, housing and living standards.

There were full reports on Scottish Parliament and Westminster activities with our elected representatives busy on many fronts. The local government report concentrated on the underfunding of the early years expansion and the staffing challenges in particular. Members were encouraged to engage with the work of the Local Governance Review. The MEP report highlighted the key stages of the Brexit process and the tight timetable, as well as current problems over trade and political developments in Italy and Germany.

The Women’s Committee updated the SEC on plans for the women’s conference and a range of events.

The SEC devoted a large part of the meeting to the refreshed power-sharing proposal from the  Aberdeen Labour Group. There were a range of views around the table, but a clear majority felt that local and national political considerations and the need to ensure that the party rules were upheld, meant that the proposal had to be rejected. The question of individual disciplinary action is now a matter for the NEC and the National Constitutional Committee of the Labour Party. This was a difficult decision, but the councillors concerned wilfully ignored party rules and that has to be the SEC’s primary consideration.

Good progress had been made on Westminster selections since the last meeting. There was now a timetable to complete all the first 20 seats before the summer.

SEC Report – April 2018

This was the first meeting of the SEC after conference, so we started with the election of officers. Cathy Peattie was elected Chair, Cara Hilton Vice-Chair (keeping it in the family!) and Ian Millar as Treasurer.

Richard’s report covered his initiatives on public procurement and the scandal of poor employment practice being funded by the taxpayer. He had reluctantly supported the call for the Health Secretary to resign given the catalogue of failings in NHS Tayside. Labour supported the Continuity Bill, given the failure of the UK government to respect the devolution settlement.

There was an emergency motion on Syria that supported the position taken by Jeremy and Richard. It calls for a War Powers Act, which does not stop emergency action, but does restore parliamentary democracy to decisions in relation to military action.

Lesley Laird also covered the debates on Syria in her Westminster report. Brexit continues to dominate the agenda and the House of Lords decision on a customs union will ensure the issue is debated again in the commons. The group was supporting the Unite campaign on RBS closures and CLPs are encouraged to join in local campaigns to save branches. The Windrush debates on immigration has shown how the Tories have lost any sense of decency – with even the Daily Mail attacking them. There had also been a debate on anti-semitism and the new UK General Secretary had updated the PLP and Shadow Cabinet on measures to progress outstanding internal cases.

David Ross reported on the COSLA Labour group’s position on pay, but the SNP and the Tories combined in a vote that undermines collective bargaining. There had been some progress with the government on funding early years expansion and education reforms. A development paper on Labour in local government was welcomed.

Catherine Stihler also covered Syria in her report and well as the EU position on Brexit. The Windrush debate highlighted potential issues in future for EU nationals living in the uK.

The General Secretary covered the appointment of a new local government officer and new organiser posts. The next Campaign Day on 12 May would focus on council cuts. Campaign plans are being reviewed by a new group led by Neil Findlay MSP.

The timetable and procedures for the Deputy Leader election were agreed. It is a much longer process than members would have liked, but it made sense to coordinate the timetable with other party elections – resulting in a significant financial saving. This means nominations will close on 28 May and the freeze date for membership will be 22 June. Ballot papers will be distributed after the hustings on 26 July and the result will be announced on 1 September.

The timetable for the election of places on the Scottish Policy Forum was also agreed. The closing date for CLP nominations will be 25th June. Ballot papers will be issued on 26 July and the results announced on 3 September.

The organisational sub-committee report on the Aberdeen Labour Group suspension was considered. There had been progress and further discussions will be held with a further report to the June meeting.

The General Secretary updated the SEC on Westminster selections. Most were now under way and timetables will be set for the remainder of the target seats, if the CLPs concerned have not done so.

There was a motion on anti-semitism from Eastwood CLP calling on the NEC to speed up the disciplinary process in outstanding cases. This has already happened and the CLP will be advised of the action taken at UK and Scottish levels.

Finally, the SEC received an interim report on tackling discrimination and harassment that was tabled at conference.

 

National Policy Forum consultations

The UK National Policy Forum has published a series of policy consultations. This is part of the process towards developing a manifesto for the next UK general election.

Below are the eight consultation documents on key policy areas the NPF wants to hear your views on. Each consultation document contains some background and sets of questions for you to answer.

With devolution, a lot of the issues covered in these papers don’t apply to Scotland. The Scottish Policy Forum will start the policy process for the next Scottish Parliament elections in the autumn. In the meantime there is Neil Findlay MSP’s ‘Big Idea’ initiative.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of reserved matters to comment on. In particular the papers on the future of work and addressing in-work poverty.

Conference rule changes turn a chapter

Last weekend’s Scottish Labour Party conference approved a rule change that completes the Revitalise reform programme that started in 2003/4.

Conference amended Clause 17, which deals with amendments to the Scottish Policy Forum (SPF) reports.

The issue was raised again a few conferences ago by a Glasgow CLP, with particular credit to Jim McKechnie who has doggedly pursued the issue. The wording of the CLP amendment wasn’t quite right, but the SEC agreed to look again at this issue.

It is indicative of different times with regards to party democracy that I moved the amendment on behalf of SEC, more than ten years after I drafted the original proposal.

So, what does it mean.

This summer we start the SPF process that will lead to a radical manifesto for next Scottish Parliament elections.

At present when the SPF present the final report to conference delegates can only accept or reject as a whole. So if delegates thought the report was generally great, but had a problem with one proposal, they had no option but to reject or accept. Now they will be able to move an amendment on the final document, which will result in a final document that has the support of conference

This rule change is yet another indication of the real change in our internal democracy, mirroring the real change we want to see in Scotland as a whole.

Conference also made some major changes to our women’s organisation and new equalities measures. These are covered in this Holyrood Magazine summary.