The September SEC was a fairly quiet affair. Sadly, still no substantive progress on the Devolution Commission which is now scheduled for October. Several members expressed concern over the delay and the damage not having a coherent devolution proposition will do to the no campaign. While the yes campaign may be floundering, Labour needs to have its positive message clearly mapped out on extended devolution.
At Westminster the ConDem reshuffle was clearly a shift to the right, demonstrating Cameron’s weak position in his own party. Labour had been focussing on the Enterprise Bill and the attack on employment rights. Interestingly, SNP MPs have been quiet on this point. Maybe Indy Scotland won’t quite be the socialist nirvana some are seeking to portray! Thanks to Labour a wide range of organisations are now talking about jobs and growth rather than supporting austerity.
The Holyrood focus was on the legislative programme. The Procurement Bill in particular gets weaker at every iteration, particularly on social issues and the living wage. Members identified a strong centralising theme in the policy and legislation of the Scottish Government. More on this in Dave Watson’s blog.
This theme was taken up in local government reports particularly over care integration. The Labour group is taking a strong line in defence of local democracy. Quango appointees are not equal to democratically elected councillors. As we move into the budget cycle even greater concerns over the effect further cuts will have on jobs and services. Housing benefit cuts and the broader welfare cuts were also a concern in questions.
Europe reports highlighted the Scottish Government’s avoidance of FoI requests on their legal advice regarding EU accession. They are appealing their own Commissioner’s decision, on the narrowest of points, that they had to confirm the existence of such advice. More wasted scarce taxpayer pounds. This simply confirms the SNP’s very poor record on freedom of information. There are some positives with Barossa now talking about social policy, an agenda that was being lost in the EU’s version of austerity. Progress on procurement issues remains slow and likely to be drawn out for some time.
On matters internal, there was an update on the Review of labour in Scotland action plan. CLP reorganisations were progressing and there was progress in identifying the new communications and research base in Edinburgh. A Best Practice award scheme was agreed along with outline CLP development plans. The review will be considered in more detail at the November awayday.
Arrangements for Scottish delegates attending UK Labour Conference at the end of this month were agreed and these will be publicised, including the Scottish reception.
Finally, the SEC agreed to write to the Glasgow City Labour Group urging them to support the STUC’s request for access to George Square for the October 20 march and rally. Members recognising the historic role of George Square as a place of protest. It is important that Scottish Labour is seen to be active at the event.