SEC Report – September 2018

A relative short and sweet SEC meeting today, not just because it was my last!

Richard reported on his summer tour across Scotland and the issues raised with him. Housing was a particular concern and Pauline McNeil will be establishing a commission to look at this in detail. The absence of a coherent industrial strategy was another and he will be developing the current policy to reflect post-Brexit challenges.

He also reflected on the Scottish Government’s legislative programme. Some elements, such as mental health, Labour could support, but there were obvious gaps in areas like the Good Food Nation Bill and tackling the social care crisis. Mary Fee also reflected on these issues in her Holyrood report.

Lesley Laird focused on the Tory shambles over Brexit and Keir Starmer MP is coming to Scotland this month. She was also looking to develop Labour’s position on immigration policy in discussions with Diane Abbot.

David Ross reported on the ongoing ScotGov efforts to centralise education, the Local Governance review and challenges facing the integrated joint boards over social care. COSLA is exploring the prospects of some form of partnership agreement with ScotGov, but this would have to be based on recognition of spheres not tiers of government. Agreement had been reached with STULP on a Challenging Austerity statement and STULP had also produced a template on producing a citizens budget to support this.

The Women’s Conference will be held on 28 November and nomination forms will be going out next week.

Brian reported on the campaign packs and tabloid newsletters that were distributed during the summer. There had been a successful training programme, organised by STULP, for CLP TULO officers. Thirty members had been enrolled on the Gordon Aikman leadership programme and he circulated the revised Scottish new member’s booklet.

The Organisation Sub-Committee will look at the Scottish implications of the UK democracy review recommendations. This will be a significant piece of work with rule changes going to next year’s conference.

Almost all the Westminster target seat selections have now been completed. A paper on timetabling the remaining seats will come to the November meeting, along with proposals to begin the Scottish Parliament selections.

This will be my last report as it was my final SEC meeting due to the imminent retirement from my post at UNISON Scotland. I have been on the SEC since 2003 and I will particularly treasure the glossy version of the new Scottish Labour Party rules as well, of course, as the kind words from Richard and others. Given the behaviour in some parts of the party recently, my final advice came from Danton’s speech to the French Convention as the forces of reaction massed on the borders to crush the French Revolution.

In the ‘enemy at the gates speech’ he said; “Your discussions are shameful. I can see but the enemy. You tire me by squabbling. In place of occupying yourselves with the safety of the Republic!”

SEC Report – June 2018

A delayed start to the usually quiet June meeting due to a combination of the tragic Art School fire and an Orange Lodge march in the vicinity.

Richard Leonard welcomed the election of Lesley Laird as Deputy Leader. He pointed to effective opposition on issues like the independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside. A range of events will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS – one a Labour’s finest achievements in government. He welcomed recent visits by Shadow Cabinet members, which showed the value of our UK links.

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He deplored the Tory Brexit shambles and the insufficient debating time at Westminster, while pointing to the irony of the SNP posing over devolution when they were at best late entrants to the cause. Like the Tories, their actions seek to undermine devolution. He still hoped that Scottish Labour’s attempt to fine a compromise would be picked up, but Labour will continue to be the defenders of devolution.

He highlighted the the SNP’s Growth Commission report as evidence of a return to right-wing economic policies, with austerity plans that were worse than George Osborne’s. He was equally scathing about Tory attempts to portray themselves as in any way progressive – as highlighted by the actions of Christopher Chope MP in talking out the members bill on up skirting.

His key message was that Scottish Labour will be the party of the radical tradition, focusing on the issues that really matter to working people – including jobs, housing and living standards.

There were full reports on Scottish Parliament and Westminster activities with our elected representatives busy on many fronts. The local government report concentrated on the underfunding of the early years expansion and the staffing challenges in particular. Members were encouraged to engage with the work of the Local Governance Review. The MEP report highlighted the key stages of the Brexit process and the tight timetable, as well as current problems over trade and political developments in Italy and Germany.

The Women’s Committee updated the SEC on plans for the women’s conference and a range of events.

The SEC devoted a large part of the meeting to the refreshed power-sharing proposal from the  Aberdeen Labour Group. There were a range of views around the table, but a clear majority felt that local and national political considerations and the need to ensure that the party rules were upheld, meant that the proposal had to be rejected. The question of individual disciplinary action is now a matter for the NEC and the National Constitutional Committee of the Labour Party. This was a difficult decision, but the councillors concerned wilfully ignored party rules and that has to be the SEC’s primary consideration.

Good progress had been made on Westminster selections since the last meeting. There was now a timetable to complete all the first 20 seats before the summer.

SEC Report – April 2018

This was the first meeting of the SEC after conference, so we started with the election of officers. Cathy Peattie was elected Chair, Cara Hilton Vice-Chair (keeping it in the family!) and Ian Millar as Treasurer.

Richard’s report covered his initiatives on public procurement and the scandal of poor employment practice being funded by the taxpayer. He had reluctantly supported the call for the Health Secretary to resign given the catalogue of failings in NHS Tayside. Labour supported the Continuity Bill, given the failure of the UK government to respect the devolution settlement.

There was an emergency motion on Syria that supported the position taken by Jeremy and Richard. It calls for a War Powers Act, which does not stop emergency action, but does restore parliamentary democracy to decisions in relation to military action.

Lesley Laird also covered the debates on Syria in her Westminster report. Brexit continues to dominate the agenda and the House of Lords decision on a customs union will ensure the issue is debated again in the commons. The group was supporting the Unite campaign on RBS closures and CLPs are encouraged to join in local campaigns to save branches. The Windrush debates on immigration has shown how the Tories have lost any sense of decency – with even the Daily Mail attacking them. There had also been a debate on anti-semitism and the new UK General Secretary had updated the PLP and Shadow Cabinet on measures to progress outstanding internal cases.

David Ross reported on the COSLA Labour group’s position on pay, but the SNP and the Tories combined in a vote that undermines collective bargaining. There had been some progress with the government on funding early years expansion and education reforms. A development paper on Labour in local government was welcomed.

Catherine Stihler also covered Syria in her report and well as the EU position on Brexit. The Windrush debate highlighted potential issues in future for EU nationals living in the uK.

The General Secretary covered the appointment of a new local government officer and new organiser posts. The next Campaign Day on 12 May would focus on council cuts. Campaign plans are being reviewed by a new group led by Neil Findlay MSP.

The timetable and procedures for the Deputy Leader election were agreed. It is a much longer process than members would have liked, but it made sense to coordinate the timetable with other party elections – resulting in a significant financial saving. This means nominations will close on 28 May and the freeze date for membership will be 22 June. Ballot papers will be distributed after the hustings on 26 July and the result will be announced on 1 September.

The timetable for the election of places on the Scottish Policy Forum was also agreed. The closing date for CLP nominations will be 25th June. Ballot papers will be issued on 26 July and the results announced on 3 September.

The organisational sub-committee report on the Aberdeen Labour Group suspension was considered. There had been progress and further discussions will be held with a further report to the June meeting.

The General Secretary updated the SEC on Westminster selections. Most were now under way and timetables will be set for the remainder of the target seats, if the CLPs concerned have not done so.

There was a motion on anti-semitism from Eastwood CLP calling on the NEC to speed up the disciplinary process in outstanding cases. This has already happened and the CLP will be advised of the action taken at UK and Scottish levels.

Finally, the SEC received an interim report on tackling discrimination and harassment that was tabled at conference.

 

Scottish Executive Committee – January 2018

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.

 

 

SEC November 2017

This month’s SEC was a first. The downside, it was Sunday morning – the upside, a joint meeting with the NEC.

Jeremy was in good form giving the Westminster report and his campaign plans, which include regular visits to Scotland. He welcomed Richard Leonard as the new Leader of Scottish Labour. Richard set out his vision for Scottish Labour and presented a paper on winning in Scotland that outlined his initial thoughts on an organisational and political strategy for Scottish Labour.

In the afternoon, both committees returned to their normal business. Cathy Peattie kicked off the SEC by welcoming the excellent result in the Rutherglen by-election. The swing to Labour demonstrates the progress we are making at all levels. She also thanked the staff for their round the clock efforts during the leadership election.

Katy Clark introduced the UK Party Democracy Review. She will be looking at all aspects of the party structure, from CLPs to conference, so that it better reflects the mass membership party Labour has become – the largest in Europe. There will be Scottish events and member surveys, although it is of course a matter for the Scottish Labour Party, which recommendations it adopts in relation to our rules. She plans to report in the summer of 2018, with any rule changes going to conference.

The Women’s Working Group gave an update on their work to develop the women’s organisation in the party. This includes the Scottish Women’s Conference on 17 February 2018.

Richard gave his first Leader’s report welcoming the fair degree of consensus in the leadership campaign on policy and his priorities. He would be discussing with colleagues before announcing any changes to the shadow cabinet. There was the inevitable question about events in the ‘Jungle’. Richard set out the process of events and said the Group would deal with matter on Kezia’s return.

Lesley Laird reported on Westminster issues which included the dismal UK Budget and Brexit.

Richard’s attendance at the COSLA Labour Group meeting on Friday was welcomed by David Ross in his report. The Group wanted to strengthen relations with MSPs and trade unions as they tackled the difficult budget position and campaigned for fair funding in the forthcoming Scottish budget. SEC members welcomed this and the trade unions indicated that STULP would be reviewing its campaign plans. The staffing support for Labour councillors also needed to be deployed effectively.

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The General Secretary’s report included the leadership election and the youth section ballot. There was a detailed discussion on sexual harassment procedures and it was agreed to establish a working group to look at strengthening them.

There was an update report on the investigation process into the suspended Aberdeen City councillors. The Constitutional Committee will monitor any change in circumstances to see if the Group could become compliant with the SEC requirements for arrangements with other parties, including how the Budget is handled. The conduct of individual members would still be a matter for the NEC Disputes Panel and the NCC.

There were two motions from Shettleston CLP on SEC procedures which will be given further consideration at the SEC away day in January.

Overall, a very positive set of meetings with a new Leader and constructive discussions with our comrades in the UK Party.