This meeting was the SEC’s annual away day in Dunblane. Really more of an extended meeting, given the amount of business that had been deferred during the leadership election.
Richard set out his recent policy announcements, including his Dundee speech on public ownership, an initiative that is all the more relevant with the collapse of Carillion. This is part of developing a long term vision for the next 20 years of the Scottish Parliament. Setting out what Scottish Labour is for, not just what we are against.
The parliamentary focus was on the budget and Labour’s alternative will be published before the Stage 1 debate on Wednesday. For the longer term, he has asked Professor Christine Cooper to lead the work of a tax and revenue commission. James Kelly’s Football Act (Repeal) Bill had gained majority support at the first stage, and he paid tribute to the work of James and his team on this.
At Westminster, Lesley Laird reported on the EU Withdrawal Bill, which was now in the House of Lords. She commended the work of Keir Stalmer in developing Labour’s position on the Bill and the withdrawal negotiations. The group was also campaigning on the RBS branch closures and putting pressure on the Secretary of State over his Carillion advisor.
David Ross concentrated on the local government budget implications. There was a welcome common theme in all the political reports that the various teams were working better together, with a clear political focus.
A plan was agreed to start UK selections in marginal seats, together with a selection procedure and code of conduct. Most members recognised the importantance of being on a general election footing and an initial 20 seats would be selected. There was a debate about the merits of twinning as against All Women Shortlists. Twinning has its merits when you are selecting all seats as with the Scottish Parliament, but is less effective in these circumstances. There is some helpful research on the effectiveness of AWS here. There will always be CLPs who oppose AWS in their own patch, but the reality is that we are still in a position were these types of measures are required to select candidates that reflect all the population. Those candidates who stood up to the plate in 2017 will be automatically shortlisted as will those who receive more than 50% of nominations from affiliates.
It was agreed that the Deputy Leadership election will be held over the summer. This ensures that we focus on holding the Tories and the SNP to account during the parliamentary session. It also avoids duplicating ballots, with a significant financial saving. The Organisation Committee will review the lessons learned from the recent leadership election and develop new procedures.
The meeting also agreed new Aims and Objectives for the SEC, together with terms of reference and standing orders. The media guidelines seek to achieve a balance between transparency and the need to deal with confidential matters, The ‘comrade’ who thought it was a good idea to leak SEC papers to ‘The Sun’, really needs to take a long hard look at themselves.
The Women’s Conference and structures are progressing well. More work has also been done on Sexual Harassment Procedures, together with UK developments.
Agreement was reached on starting the policy framework in the run up to the next Scottish Parliament elections. Elections to the Scottish Policy Forum will take place over the summer. Richard will also be presenting a series of policy documents to this year’s conference.
The outcome of elections to the the executive of the Scottish Association of Labour Councillors was reported to the SEC. There will be a Scottish Labour Councillors conference on 10 February. Richard has also proposed a wider local government conference later in the year, to allow the wider party to engage with local government issues. Recent council by-elections had been positive and there are a number of important by-elections in the coming months.
The latest membership figures were reported. Overall membership has doubled since 2012.
The SEC will propose a rule change to this year’s conference which will give conference the right to refer back part of an SPF report, without having to reject the whole document. A long standing Revitalise proposal.