The report of the Scottish Labour review was unveiled to the Scottish Executive Committee on Saturday, and unanimously approved. While I agree with many of the reported recommendations, the devil is surely in the detail.
The decision to form around Holyrood boundaries was a controversial one when I proposed it, but I’m glad to see that the bullet has been bitten. Not only will this show that we are truly focussed on the Scottish Parliament, but the smaller organisational units should make it easier for party members to organise. However, it should not proscribe the activities of cross-boundary organisations, which in many areas are actually the main Labour representation. In Angus, we have Angus Labour party, which covers Angus CLP, and the Carnoustie & Monifieth branch of Dundee East CLP. Indeed, the Carnoustie & Monifieth branch is very active, and is not harmed by being part of Angus Labour, so there is no reason why such structures cannot continue to work elsewhere.
Making the leader the leader of all of Scottish Labour, rather than just the MSPs, is again a sensible move, and one that should have been done some time ago, as is the idea for a political strategy board, bringing together the leader, the shadow secretary of state, leader of the labour councillors in Scotland and the General Secretary of the party.
However, we need to work on involving union levy payers more. We have fewer than 20,000 members across Scotland, yet there are many more union members who pay the policial levy – and their money helps us to fight for our shared values. We need to involve them more in all aspects of our work, from selecting candidates, to working the streets campaigning to electing our leader. Too many of them voted SNP in May, and by doing this we should help ensure that doesnt happen again.
However, the proposal to fully devolve the Scottish Labour party seems to me to have been proposed without looking at the consequences. Our party’s finances are not great nationally, and while we have had many new members join us, I’m not sure that has helped much, given the number of special offers we’ve had to attract them. Could the Scottish party cope with making its own way? I think this cannot be considered without putting forward a way of increasing our income, both locally and nationally. This may require more investment, for instance in employing many more local organisers, who will help to increase membership, raise funds and focus activity. And its another thing that involving union members in can help.
Before we vote on this at Conference in Liverpool, or at the special Scottish conference to be held at the end of October, we must have all the details worked out. We shouldn’t vote on a blank cheque.