Political reports were kept short this month to allow time for a full discussion on election strategy.
Kez and Alex covered the main issues in the Scottish Parliament including education, social care and the Trade Union Bill. Brian confirmed that following the resignation of Richard Baker that Lesley Brennan had been sworn in as an MSP.
There was a written report from Ian Murray and an update on the Trade Union Bill and the Scotland Bill in the Lords.
The main political discussion was on Local government. The grant allocation is being slashed by £500m, which means nearly £1bn of cuts when unavoidable commitments are taken into account. It is still unclear how much of the £259m of IJB money being routed through health will reach council care services. Councils may have to delay budget setting due to the uncertainty.
There was a recognition that councils are in different places and will adopt individual solutions, although that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a common political strategy. Some will consider an increase in the Council Tax despite the penalties, as the cumulative impact continues to damage services and undermine local democracy.
There is an assumption that the Europe Referendum will be held in June and Gordon Brown has kicked off the Scottish campaign. There are plans for a digital single market that also recognises skill shortages. 55k IT vacancies in UK, are likely to grow to 177k.
Most of the meeting focused on strategy for the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections. There were presentations on organising, messaging, policy, digital content and fundraising.
There will be a review of the list selection procedures after the conclusion of the current ballot. The member meetings were well attended and the feedback was positive despite the logistics of managing so many candidates in the same hustings. It was agreed to publish the results by ranking only.
There was a report on candidate selection in the remaining constituencies. In view of the need to complete these quickly, voting would take place at hustings meetings without postal votes.
A paper was presented on the process for reselection and selecting candidates for the 2017 council elections. The Boundary Commission has not completed its work so it won’t be possible to start the process until the new boundaries are known. Campaign Forums will be established and new guidance was agreed on constituting them. The selection process will go out for consultation and the SEC will return to the issue at the March meeting.