SEC Report – November 2016

The focus of the Scottish Executive Committee’s November meeting was on political strategy.

There was a presentation on the party’s latest polling, which is asking some different questions to help inform strategy. The broad numbers are similar to the published polls, with the Labour vote not recovering from May and voters still largely characterised as taking unionist and nationalist stances on the constitution. There has been movement within these blocks, but little shift between them. However, there are some interesting nuances that challenge popular perceptions – particularly amongst demographic groups.

There is a risk that this could lead to a short-term view that Labour should be focusing on simply contesting the unionist block with the Tories. However, while there is clearly no majority support for another referendum, there is still a large group of voters in the middle, who are not hard core unionists or nationalists. Scottish Labour is neither a unionist nor a nationalist party, a point well articulated by Alex Rowley in his latest blog post, but we do need to develop a clearer position on the constitution.

Talking in more detail with the groups Labour can usefully focus on will develop this initial polling. That can inform, but not lead strategy. Any new strategy has to be value led, but based on evidence of where resources can best be targeted.

Political reports were shortened to allow time for the strategy discussion. The key issue will be the Autumn Statement and the subsequent Scottish Government budget on 15 December. In the Scottish Parliament, local government issues have been prioritised as well as exposing the SNP’s failings in NHS Scotland.

Scottish Labour now has a full team of senior appointments and Tommy Kane from Neil Findlay’s office will also work part-time as Jeremy Corbyn’s advisor on Scotland.

The latest recruitment data shows that party membership in Scotland has doubled in the past two years. All new members are receiving a new introductory pack, with an emphasis on how to get fully involved. This is also reflected in a record number of nominations for CLP places on the SEC. The revised ballot timetable means ballot papers will go out early in the New Year to avoid the Christmas period. A code of conduct was also agreed.

Local government election selections are on schedule with priority selections completed by the end of the year. The local government conference will take place in Stirling next Saturday. Members who are considering standing can also attend.

Now that Westminster selection procedures are devolved to the SEC, decisions will need to be taken on all aspects of the process. Good local messaging and candidates have been successful in recent by-elections along with new approaches to digital marketing. The autonomy rule changes agreed at conference were noted and these will need to be incorporated into the Scottish Labour rulebook at next year’s conference. Now that Scottish Labour is represented on the NEC there will be regular reports to the SEC.

The Westminster boundary review has been published. CLPs will be consulted and able to feed into a single Scottish Labour submission.

UCATT welcomed the support they had received over access to the Dumfries hospital site. SEC members highlighted the broader failures of the Scottish Government to deliver on their rhetoric over blacklisting.