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.