Red Federalism: A radical solution

Join us at the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth at our fringe meeting on Red Federalism: a radical solution. Hosted by UNISON Labour Link Scotland.

Our comrades at the Red Paper will be launching their latest paper on federalism at this event.

Saturday 25 February 2017, Royal George Hotel, starting at 12:30pm.

Speakers:

Neil Findlay MSP and Lesley Brennan.

SEC elections – CLP section

Results of the SEC – CLP Section election. The candidates elected are as follows:

West Scotland and Mid Scotland and Fife

Johanna Baxter
Cara Hilton

Central Scotland and Glasgow

Angela Feeney
Stephen Low

Lothian and South Scotland

Scott Arthur
Ann Henderson

North East Scotland and Highlands and Islands

Linda Stewart
Lesley Brennan

Full detailed results will be published at Scottish Conference later this month.

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.

SEC Report – September 2016

Saturday was the September meeting of the SEC. One of the few party organisations meeting at present due to the UK leadership elections.

Kez highlighted the themes that the PLP had focused on over the summer, post-Brexit. The focus has been on investing in public services and opposing the cuts. Scottish Labour’s alternative legislative programme reinforces that focus, rather than constitutional debate.

Education and the Council Tax are some of big issues coming up after the recess. £100m for attainment gap is being funded by Council Tax, decided by central govt, not councils. What happened to ending ring fencing! Councillor reps emphasised that we need to see this in context of council cuts.

Trade union reps strongly made the point that some council actions don’t match the alternative legislative programme and Labour groups need show more political awareness locally.

Despite the ‘bread and butter’ focus, there was a recognition that the voters constitutional focus is not going away and therefore we need a conversation about the next stage for Scottish Labour. There was broad support from the SEC, irrespective of position on the detail, recognising that the SNPs post-Brexit constitutional fig leaf is likely to collapse. There is also a helpful UK Labour initiative on power led by Jon Trickett MP.

At Westminster, the debate rarely moves away from Brexit. What exactly does ‘Brexit means Brexit’ translate to in practice. There will also be a big shift of powers to Holyrood as a consequence of Brexit and thought needs to be given to this as well. A useful discussion on migration and the concerns in some communities, balanced by the importance of migration to the economy and public services. Employers in Scotland are exploiting migrant labour and that should be our focus. The SNP government has been been criticised by a UN committee on their human rights record in relation to employment rights.

In local government there is significant opposition to the proposed Education Bill and centralisation of services, together with adding even greater bureaucracy on schools. The early years expansion also needs to be addressed. Funding is inadequate and a risk that it will only be achieved by a new race to the bottom in poor quality provision. Also need to address the devolution of powers from Holyrood to local government.

On next year’s council elections, the SEC agreed a paper on how many candidates should be put up in each ward, following work with each Local Campaign Forum. Some plans are still outstanding and we are awaiting parliamentary consideration of the Boundary Commission report. There was a welcome consensus in this year’s process. A range of positive action measures are being taken, including all women short lists in winnable seats, with the aim of returning more women councillors than in 2012. Still plenty of challenges to change the culture of under representation of women in councils across all parties. An organisational strategy paper for local government will be presented to the November meeting.

The meeting agreed the process for the election of CLP places on the SEC later this year in time for the February conference. The closing date for nominations will be 4 November.

An excellent paper on accessibility issues within Scottish Labour, ‘Not just chairs and stairs’ was agreed. A really good piece of work done by Ryan McMullan.

The party autonomy proposals are on track. It will go to the UK conference in September and then to Scottish conference next February. This is a significant step forward and will bring the party rules into line with devolution.

SEC report – May 2016

The May meeting of the Scottish Executive Committee inevitably focused on the election post-mortem.

Brian Roy set out his analysis of the voting and the party’s own polling. The numbers can be found in the SPICe report, for those in need of further depressing reading.

The party’s mid-campaign polling was better than the final result and this appears to be the basis for the suggestion that the anti-Semitism row had an impact on the result. While it was certainly unhelpful and may have had an impact in one or two areas, most SEC members were sceptical that it had much of a wider impact.

Much more significant was the squeeze on the constitution, reinforced by the huge resources available to the Tories to exploit it. There were differences of emphasis on the SEC between those who favoured a stronger ‘unionist’ position on the constitution and those who argue that, while this may have helped in this election, in the longer term it’s a dead end position consigning the party to around a quarter of the vote.

There was strong support for the manifesto, even if some reservations about leaving the publication so late. The strong anti-austerity pitch places Scottish Labour in a stronger position as the cuts begin to bite deeper in this parliament. Polling demonstrated that this was popular with the voters and it was the late focus on the constitution that was more damaging.

The ‘Both Votes Labour’ message at least addressed the historic problem with the list vote, but did not resolve the gap. There were significant differences in organisational performance at local level. Increased membership doesn’t always translate to more activists on the ground, as other parties have also found. There are obvious challenges over funding, paid staff and engagement of all elected representatives. The SEC recognised the huge efforts put in by staff and many activists.

There was broad agreement on the next steps following the EU referendum. These include a focus on building for next year’s council elections, fundraising, MSP contracts building a regional strategy, as well as the new Leader’s political office.

Other political reports covered the excellent work done in the House of Lords over the Trade Union Bill. There was also a discussion on a framework for local government election manifestos for next year.

After the break, the SEC considered a procedural document for local government selections. While there are obvious challenges in building greater political engagement amongst Labour councillors, media references to ‘deadwood’ are unhelpful. There will be a call for candidates and a letter to existing councillors to identify those who wish to stand next year. The Local Campaign Forums will need to be reactivated in most areas. Further progress is also dependent on the Boundary Commission deliberations and the SEC received an update on progress with that review.

The SEC received an update on party autonomy discussions following the joint statement agreed between Kezia and Jeremy. A consultation paper will be agreed by the joint SEC/NEC working group. On the issue of wider political devolution reform, Jon Trickett MP is visitingScotland this week.

There was a report on the investigation into the well publicised disputes in East Kilbride CLP. This will be referred to the Constitution Sub-Committee.

Another long and difficult SEC meeting. However, considerably less fractious than some other post-election discussions in recent times – with a clearer understanding of the task ahead.