I’m standing to be Scottish Labour Leader because like every Labour Party member I want to change our communities and country for the better. The Labour Party’s greatest asset is our members but I don’t just want to give members a say during leadership elections, I want to give our members a say every day that I am leader.
I want to change the Scottish Labour Party into a Members’ Movement once again. I have ten changes I want to see happen across our party if we are to become that great movement again. These are vital in rebuilding our movement which will empower members, rather than just managing them. Having travelled the country, I know that’s how it feels for too many people.
Reforming how the party goes about its business requires culture change as much as rule changes. Internal changes alone won’t win back people’s trust but they will strengthen our movement. Diminishing participation in political parties has been seen as inevitable, but we know the explosion of membership in the SNP proves this to be false.
The question is not whether political parties have a future as membership organisations but whether they have an organisation and a purpose fit for the future.
As Deputy Leader I sought to change the value we place on being a membership organisation with my SkillsMatch innovation, connecting members’ desire to help with the ability to make a difference.
SkillMatch has great potential, and I was really pleased to see so many members engage with it. The strength of our movement lies in its diversity, and the different life experience each member brings. SkillsMatch gives us the tools to tap into that potential and experience, and use it well.
I will dedicate a member of staff to consistently work on membership development. It’s not just about what members can do for the party, but how we can all work together to realise the change we want to see.
For too long now we have approached policy from the top down, and members haven’t been properly engaged in the policy forum process. It’s really important to me that we reflect on the Scottish Policy Forum operation, and consider how we can maximise all member’s involvement in it.
I want you as a member of our party to know that if you have an interest in a specific policy area, there is a place for you to be listened to, to collaborate and play your role in moving our party forward. That the time you invest in policy meetings is meaningfully reflected in the final product.
A more engaged party membership is the first step to encouraging more members into our movement. Labour’s democracy was founded on the ability of members to take their ideas to a local meeting, based on their political perspective sure, but also their knowledge of the issues in their street, their workplace or the hopes and dreams of their families.
If members with ideas win support, they should see these ideas considered at party conference. One of the ways I want to see this happen is through more dedicated time at our conference to discuss new ideas, and to untangle the complicated process that currently exists to bring forward debates during conference.
We must also allow ourselves to look outside of the constraints of Scottish Parliament boundaries too, and give our CLPs the opportunity to come together and create new networks of common interest.
When I was speaking for Labour on education, I formed a group called Labour Learns, which invited all members with a connection to education to collaborate on and develop our education policy. More of this needs to happen across our party.
I joined the Labour Party when I was 23 years old. At that time it was Labour who were impatient, agitating for change – driving up living standards, breaking down barriers, giving people new rights and the ability to realise them.
For too many, we’re not seen as that movement any more – but I know we can be again. We do this when we make membership meaningful again.
I know that reaffirming our party’s democratic roots isn’t the answer to all of the problems we face, but I know that it is the right place to begin.
So if I am elected Leader I will convene a group from all sections of our party and ask them drive a process of change in time for the next Scottish party conference.
Whether a member is a CLP secretary or a Shadow Cabinet member, a regular attender at meetings or supporter wondering how they can get involved, everyone has a part to play in a Scottish Labour Party led by me.
Scotland is a modern, vibrant and outward looking nation, and Scottish Labour has to reflect that. When people at look at our party, I want them to see a strong, democratic and exciting movement that reflects their lives.
10 Proposals for Change
- More straightforward procedures for initiating debate at conference.
- More time for debating new and constructive ideas at conference, determined by greater use of priority ballots.
- Regularising terms of office and the timing of conference recognising that a more crowded electoral calendar is the norm not the exception in Scotland.
- A review of the operation of the Scottish Policy Forum considering a right of petition to the Policy Forum and the introduction of online voting.
- Simpler procedures for the election of Scottish Executive Committee and Scottish Policy Forum Representatives with the Chair, Vice-Chair and Treasurer of the Scottish Labour Party elected by delegates at Conference
- Local Labour Parties should have access to small Building Capacity Grants for activities which could lead to increased fundraising, increased membership and innovative community engagement ideas.
- The creation of and better support for new networks and campaigns, e.g. rural members, members active in the voluntary sector.
- More freedom for local parties to come together at a regional level where this is supported.
- Priority given to identifying funding for a full-time sabbatical officer for Scottish Young Labour and Scottish Labour Students.
- The further development and empowerment of the Scottish Association of Labour Councillors ahead of the Council Elections in 2017.