“Given the Scottish Parliament should be our primary focus, the sub-committee proposed that sitting MSP’s not be allowed to seek selection to stand as candidates at the next general election.”
By Coll McCail and Lauren Harper, Scottish Young Labour representatives on Scottish Labour’s Executive Committee
This is the first of a new regular report from the Scottish Labour Executive Committee by Coll and Lauren
Scottish Labour’s Executive Committee met last Saturday for the first time in 2 months. It was only our second meeting after being elected to represent young members in February. The meeting came on the back of the publication of the Forde Report and Keir Starmer’s petulant displays of contempt for striking workers on the picket line.
What follows is our report from that meeting, which focused mainly on the process by which the Party will select candidates for the next general election.
The meeting began with concerns raised by the unions over proposed Green Ports and how they may threaten workers’ rights. Like the UK Government’s Free Ports, Scotland’s Green Ports allow operators to benefit from a raft of tax and customs incentives. The logic of the market dictates that Green Port’s tax incentives are likely to accelerate the race to the bottom and lead to lowered standards elsewhere. Furthermore, it is feared that the UK Government’s initiative may allow employers to evade other regulations, like health and safety and lowered terms and conditions for workers. The Scottish Parliamentary Party agreed to keep a watchful eye on the SNP’s plans for Green Ports so as to ensure the Scottish Government weren’t allowed to pick apart workers’ rights under the table.
Given Keir Starmer’s directive to the Westminster Shadow Cabinet, SEC members noted, and praised, the Scottish Parliamentary Party and Anas Sarwar’s public show of support for striking workers on the picket line during June’s RMT dispute.
The SEC discussed the SNP’s plans for a National Care Service (NCS). There was consensus that, as proposed currently, the NCS is, in fact, a National Commissioning Service. The discussion focused on how current plans would make the service overly centralised, the issues this posed and the need for local authorities to be as involved in the running of the service as possible.
Our discussion on local government focussed on how councils can form the basis for a coordinated fight-back against the cost of living crisis. We raised the fact that, in the not too distant future, councillors are going to be faced with voting through cuts budgets. Any commitment to alleviating the cost of living means nothing if Scottish Labour councillors vote for Holyrood and Westminster-imposed austerity. Ideally, the Party would coordinate a campaign of resistance to cuts budgets in councils across Scotland.
The SEC agreed to the formation, and makeup, of an Organisational sub-committee to consider how rule changes which passed at UK Labour conference last September will impact the Scottish rule book. Lauren Harper will sit on this sub-committee. The work of this committee will likely go to the next Scottish conference.
The remainder of the meeting consisted of a report from the General election sub-committee. Given the Scottish Parliament should be our primary focus, the sub-committee proposed that sitting MSP’s not be allowed to seek selection to stand as candidates at the next general election. This was agreed by the whole executive committee.
The sub-committee proposed that the Party adopt a ‘twinning’ approach to upcoming selections to ensure an even split of male and female candidates. This approach was used for selections in the run-up to elections in both 1999 and 2016. ‘Twinning’ involves the pairing of 2 seats and the running of 2 distinct ballots, one for male candidates and the other for female candidates. The ballot result will leave 2 candidates, one for each seat. Members will have a vote in each contest. Seats will be paired on similar winnability, geography and size of Party membership. The Party have mapped council election results to Westminster seats and so have a good idea of where to focus our energies. All Women Shortlists (AWS) was ruled out as an alternative as it leaves the Labour Party open to legal challenge. The legal interpretation is that, as there are currently more female members than male in the PLP, AWS is not permitted as it does not redress an existing inequality. The SEC agreed the first group of seats to start selection and a proposed 6-week timetable beginning on 1st August.
Concerned that this process looked top-down, we asked how CLP’s and members would be involved and consulted. We were informed that, ahead of selections, local committees would form and contain CLP and trade union representation. This will be the body which involves members and works with CLPs.
The SEC agreed that twinning would be the approach taken to selections for the next general election.
No membership report was brought to this meeting or our first meeting in March. Given the urgency with which the Party must prepare for the general election, having an accurate and up-to-date membership report is imperative. We asked for this and the General Secretary gave a commitment that it would be brought to the next meeting.
The SEC will next meet in September.
Coll McCail and Lauren Harper are Scottish Young Labour representatives on Scottish Labour’s Executive Committee.