There have been two meetings of the Scottish Executive recently: a special meeting on the 22nd April called because of the announcement of the General Election, and the Scheduled meeting on6th May.
Special Meeting - 22nd April
The meeting was chaired by Jackie Martin. She welcomed new members and explained that the first meeting after Scottish conference would normally be when the party office bearers were elected. However, this was to be held off until the scheduled meeting in May.
Kezia thanked staff, candidates and activists for their efforts in the ongoing Council elections, commenting that Labour had a good record in delivering in local government and had a good story to tell.
Reporting on the recent NEC meeting she said she was pleased to get an early and unequivocal rejection from Jeremy Corbyn of any idea of a ‘Progressive Alliance’ and was hopeful of several visits to Scotland by Jeremy in the course of the campaign.
UK selections and the manifesto had been discussed at the NEC. Although the NEC had decided on a process of automatic re-selection for sitting MPs, each candidate still had to be endorsed by the NEC at a meeting scheduled for 3rd May.
On selections the issues around the potentialendorsement of John Woodcock and Simon Danczuk were raised. John Woodcock had on the day the election was called published a video online where he said that, “I will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister”, and Simon Danczuk has transgressions and unpleasantness too extensive to list.
On the development of the Scottish general election manifesto – this would be coordinated with the UK manifesto – the starting point for specifically Scottish material would be the 2016 manifesto. The draft would need to be signed off by the Scottish Executive.
General Secretary’s Report
Brian Roy spoke to his written report seeking agreement for a proposal for all general election candidates to be chosen by a panel of the Scottish Executive. The justification for this was the combination of shortness of time and that we were in the middle of the council election campaign.
Some dissent was expressed at this and the idea floated of special meetings, or perhaps even a local panel. This was countered with logistical arguments about the amount of staff and activist time this would take out of the Council election effort.
The panel idea was agreed, although the original proposal of a panel of 5 was expanded to seven to allow for the principle that TU’s and CLPs get treated equally. So the panel consisted of 2 TU reps (chosen by the TU’s) , 1 Co-op , 1 Labour Student& 2 CLP reps (chosen by the CLP reps at a short separate meeting, these were Linda Stewart and Stephen Low).
The panel was to aim at establishing a 50/ 50 gender balance in candidates. It was also agreed that decisions of the panel were to deemed final and constitute endorsement by the Scottish Executive.
There was a brief update on the local government elections, which included the reminder that following the elections the Scottish Executive would have to approve only power sharing deals proposed by Labour groups.
Scottish Executive - 6th May
This was the first regular meeting of the Scottish Executive following Scottish Conference. This is the point in the year where the office bearers are elected. Linda Stewart is the Chair of the party for the next year, with Kevin Lindsay of ASLEF as Vice Chair. Cathie Peattie continues in her role as Treasurer.
Kezia ranged across the Scottish parliament, the NEC and Local Government.
Parliament still light on legislation with the SNP preferring overtly political debates to progressing issues. Labour has one debate slot coming up that would be on health.
The possibility that Ann McTaggart might take the party to court over Slough not being an all woman shortlist was mentioned. The diversity stats on the candidate list is good – 40% of the candidates are women (a record), 9% from a BME background (although few black men), 4.6% are registered disabled, 6.7% LGBT.
The Clause V meeting to decide on the manifesto was due on the 11th May. This would then be launched a few days later . Scottish manifesto would be after this.
Local Government – Kez thanked everyone involved. There were some very sad losses but some successes. 48% of our candidates were standing for the first time so we had a lot of good new candidates.
Although the result was disappointing - 131 seats lost – projection had been 191 losses. Looking ahead to the general election we need to talk about our alternative, need a real focus on the economy and enthused about John McDonnell’s 20 point plan.
In the discussion which followed various viewpoints were expressed about the local govt campaign and how it feeds into the general election campaign. Perhaps the most relevant contribution being that we need to have a firm line on the constitution, but this is different from talking about it all the time.
Scottish Parliament Report
Mary Fee MSP supplemented a written report which focussed mainly on work on the parliament’s committees. The main (only?) legislative activity upcoming was the British Transport Police Bill. SNP argument for this is that this is a Smith Commission recommendation. However Smith only recommended that the function be devolved – not a structural breakup.
Catherine Stihler reported that 2 current MEP’s had been selected as candidates for the general election.
On Brexit – The EU have agreed their mandate.
There are four criteria People (i.e. citizens), Money (i.e. divorce bill), Ireland (N.I. & Border), Future Relationships (Trade, etc). The EU 27 are very united over this. The European parliament involvement will be a yes no vote on the final deal.
Public procurement is back on the EU Agenda.
In the discussion that followed it was stressed that we need to make Brexit a “a jobs issue”.
General Secretary’s Report
Brian Roy gave a presentation on the Local Government results. Whilst these were not good, they were not as bad as had been projected. No national vote share had yet been compiled but we looked to have gained more votes than polling would have suggested.
It was commented that our number of seats appeared to be higher than our vote share – indicating a degree of success for the first & second preference strategy.
A draft of the form to be sent to Labour Groups seeking SEC Agreement on Power-Sharing arrangements was presented. The form reflected previous practice in that it was focussed round delivering policy objectives rather than who holds which positions in the council. This version was drafted to take into account the resolutions passed at Scottish Conference about anti-austerity measures and ruling out compulsory redundancy agreements. While it doesn’t rule out doing deals with anyone provided they are willing to sign up to labour principle, in practice this is likely to prove too high a bar for the Tories who designed austerity - and the SNP who decided to pass it on to local government. It was remarked that as we are the third party in most councils – the responsibility to form an administration was usually not ours.
General Election Candidates
The results of the panel were presented to the SEC. These had been chosen by a panel of seven members of the Scottish Executive, chaired by Kezia. The panel met on Monday 24th April and then via conference call several times with all candidates selected. As Brian Roy put it in his report: “After deliberations, all decisions by the Panel were unanimous and the candidate endorsed with the full support of members present.” All members were present for all of the meetings.
At the previous meeting it had ben agreed that at least 50% of candidates should be women – in terms of new candidates (i.e. everyone except Ian Murray) this was achieved.
The Campaign for Socialism endorsed representatives on the SEC are: