Scottish Executive Committee, April 2018
Report by Cara Hilton, SEC Member for Mid Scotland & Fife/West of Scotland
Following January's SEC Away Day in Stirling (which focused mainly on selections, procedures and the work programme for the year) and the pre-Conference meeting in Dundee, the first regular SEC meeting of 2018 was held on 22 April in Glasgow.
Linda Stewart (Chair) opened the meeting, beginning by welcoming Michael Marra who is replacing Lesley Brennan as representative for North East Scotland/Highlands & Islands. Lesley has been appointed as Richard Leonard's Chief of Staff - thanks extended to Lesley for he work on the SEC over the past year. Linda reflected on the changes since being elected as Chair and in particular Scottish Labour's revival in election fortunes, Kezia's resignation the Richard's election. She thanked Brian Roy and the party staff team for their incredible work and highlighted her pleasure that socialism is rightly back at the forefront of Scottish Labour. But the constant elections have limited the ability of the SEC to get on with building a better relationship with members across Scotland and implementing change to break down barriers to involvement for members in more remote and rural parts of Scotland. Linda also expressed disappointment at continuing leaks from SEC meetings which are stifling the opportunity for debate and playing into the hands of our opponents. She thanked everyone for their support over the past year in her role as Chair.
The SEC then moved to the election of new officer bearers and I was very pleased to be elected as Vice Chair. The other office bearers are Cathy Peattie (Chair) and Ian Miller (Treasurer).
Richard Leonard gave his Leader's report, beginning by paying tribute to Linda for being an outstanding Chair during a very difficult year and pledging to continue Linda's work of campaigning to raise the profile of the party in rural areas. He highlighted the successful Young Labour Conference the day before - a tremendous event - and also the work of Carywn Jones, who had resigned as Leader of Welsh Labour at the weekend. Richard is keen to develop our links with Welsh Labour. Outside Parliament, it was pleasing to see party members and elected reps across Scotland supporting the UCU strike and the recent Stand up to Racism March in Glasgow. In terms of elections, the Midlothian By Election had been very tough; we need to learn lessons organisationally. In terms of wider domestic issues, Richard reinforced the need for zero tolerance of Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia and talked also of his work underway to rebuild and strengthen our links with the STUC.
Internationally, Richard condemned the actions of the UK Government in taking military action against Syria and outlined his support for a War Powers Act as proposed by Jeremy Corbyn. In the Scottish Parliament, he is continuing to expose the SNP Government's refusal to use procurement powers to deliver fair work and tackle both blacklisting and use of umbrella companies. Richard concluded by noting Dave Watson's imminent retirement plans and the huge loss he will be to the SEC, in particular thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of party rules! He also reported briefly on the recent NEC meeting, which had been dominated by the election of the new General Secretary.
Ann Henderson then proposed an Emergency Motion on Syria, condemning the air strikes and supporting Jeremy Corbyn's stance. Scott Arthur proposed an amendment to strengthen the condemnation of all atrocities. The amended motion was agreed by the majority of the SEC.
The SEC the moved on to hear political reports. No-one was present to give a Scottish Parliament report (written report received) but Lesley Laird MP provided a comprehensive update on the Scottish Labour Group's excellent work at Westminster, focusing on the Brexit Bill, relationships building with Welsh Labour and with the press, the Windrush scandal and steps being taken to tackle anti-semitism by the new GS, Jenny Formby. She also highlighted the Unite campaign to stop RBS closures and importance of local parties actively supporting. This message was strongly reinforced by Jackson Cullinane or Unite. David Ross provided an update on Local Government and Catherine Stihler MEP provided a update on the European Parliament. The EPLP will be at Westminster next month to meet with the PLP.
Brian Roy provided a brief General Secretary's Report - outlining new staff appointments made and underway. He is working with Neil Findlay on developing our organising approach and future campaigns. The next Action Saturday will be on 12th May, with a focus on local council cuts. A new Scottish Labour website is in the final stages of development - due to be launched mid/end of May and a candidate development programme is also being developed - will be advertised in the next few months.
Deputy Leadership Election - This had been considered by the Organisation Sub-Committee who had agreed a timetable, running in conjunction with summer internal party elections. This will save the party around £45,000. A discussion took place on the approach and while some felt that ideally a freeze date should be set immediately (this was my view before I became aware of the financial savings of running alongside other elections), it was agreed to support the approach agreed by the Organisation Sub. The election timetable would commence immediately, with a freeze date set of 22nd June and the hustings period getting underway on Friday 1st June. Balloting to take place late summer, with the result being announced on Friday 31st August or Saturday 1st September. It was agreed however that going forward set rules need to be agreed, rather than chopping and changing with each election. Hopefully there will be no more contests anytime soon!
A brief discussion took place on GDPR and how this could impact on communication with members and supporters. More guidance will be issued shortly.
A lengthy discussion took place on the new Aberdeen Power Sharing Proposal that had been considered by the Organisation Sub Committee. I personally feel there still hasn't been enough guarantees that a similar decision in breech of an SEC ruling would not occur in the future and account needs to be taken of the wider political implications. While the consensus was that the situation needed resolved, there were many outstanding concerns. It was agreed that several SEC reps be identified to take forward negotiations with the Aberdeen Labour Group to achieve an outcome satisfactory to all.
Selections - Brian Roy reported that these were now underway in 15 of the 20 most marginal Westminster seats. In the remaining 5 it was agreed that action needs to be taken to ensure selections happen without much further delay. A complaint had been received regarding the process in Glasgow South West - it was agreed to refer to the SEC officers to enable a speedy resolution. I raised a question of behalf of North East Fife CLP about selections in the remaining constituencies - a commitment was given that this would be discussed at the first meeting after the new Deputy Leader is in place.
Scottish Policy Forum - elections will take place over the summer, with nominations opening on 1st June (closing 25th June) and running in conjunction with the other summer ballots.
The next meeting of the SEC will be on Saturday 16th June. Please let me have details of any issues you would like me to raise on behalf of your CLP. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org