Renewing our Party: a consultation by the Scottish Labour Party
THE SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY has been asked to respond to a consultation document on the Devolution of the Scottish Labour Party. This became a significant issue after the resignation of Joanne Lamont and her parting barb about the Scottish Party being treated as a branch office. The case for a review is based on the idea that after powers were devolved from the centre of government, this should have been matched by devolving powers within the Party.
Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn agreed that Scottish Labour should become a more autonomous party and that ‘it should be put beyond doubt that decisions about Scottish Labour will be taken by Scottish Labour.’ The consultation has an introduction from Kezia Dugdale stating that ‘decisions about Scotland would be taken here in Scotland by me and my team’.
It is not clear who makes up her ‘team’, but it should be understood that it is not the role of unelected people to make decisions. Under the heading Options for Reform, a number of questions are asked and the Campaign for Socialism has suggested the following responses. Firstly it is important to state that the Scottish Labour Party should not secede from the UK Labour Party.
The principles of our party are socialism and solidarity – these will not be served by the setting up of artificial boundaries dividing us from comrades outside Scotland. Scottish Labour does of course require the freedom of action to be able to advance Labour principles in Scotland and to contribute to the Party at a UK level. Policy on devolved issues should be made by the Scottish Labour Party and endorsed at Scottish Labour Party Conference. The Scottish Labour Party should have the capacity to feed in a collective view on reserved issues, primarily through decisions taken at Scottish Labour Party Conference or through the Scottish Executive Committee of the Labour Party.
Decisions taken at Scottish Conference should be reported to the National Policy Forum and other policy reviews such as the Defence Review. Scottish representatives on the National Policy Forum should be mandated to support policies adopted by Scottish Conference. In the longer term it makes sense for the Party to mirror the structure of the UK and to change as and when there are changes made to the UK party.
Deciding the best structure should take account of the same criteria that we would use to assess constitutional change - does it enable the redistribution of resources; does it enable democratic control; does it promote class solidarity across the UK?
Policy: what mechanism could be used to reconcile Scottish Labour Party policy positions where they differ from UK Party, into a single, agreed position for UK and European elections?
No special mechanism needs to be used. The positions adopted by the Scottish Labour Party should feed into the UK policy making process. On UK wide issues the view of the UK party has to take priority. This is democracy. What is important is that the Scottish Labour Party has the opportunity to be part of the decision making process.
Candidate Selection: should the process of agreeing and administering selections be devolved to the Scottish Labour Party? The procedure and administration of selections should be devolved. However, they should remain compliant with existing UK rules both in general and on gender and positive action in particular. There should be a right of appeal to the NEC.
Shared Services: to what degree should responsibilities for administration of membership and services be devolved to the Scottish Labour Party? Given that we are all members of the same party this is far more a matter of administrative convenience than it is an issue of principle. The Party as a whole should spend as little of resources as possible in running its internal administration and as much as is feasible in campaigning. Given the scale of the task facing Labour in Scotland it is likely that there will need to be a net transfer of resources from the Party as a whole towards the Scottish Labour Party.
CLP Management: should the Scottish Labour Party be responsible for the management of CLPs, including individual membership disputes? This should be within the remit of the Scottish Labour Party but with the option of appeal to the NEC or other appropriate committee. Pauline Bryan