kez 2015Kezia Dugdale MSP sets out ten changes she wants to see happen under her leadership to make Scottish Labour a members’ movement again.


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.

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29 thoughts on “10 ways to build a movement

  1. Hello Kezia. I agree with what you say above but this is only dealing with the structural failings of Scottish Labour. What needs to be changed is the attitude of many elected MSP’s, and Councillors. Once they are in office they become very arogant and opinionated and all of a sudden “Experts” in the policy area that they are allocated to. I accept that one of the causes of this could be insecurity based on the knowledge that for at least the past 10 years Scottish labour has had no real policies about anything. I am particularly concerned about the total lack of an environmental policy. I know of labour party members who have left the party and joined the Greens because of this. Others have voted SNP because of their stance on Trident but trident is a small element of the nuclear problem in Scotland. All of the electricity generation capacity in Scotland other than wind and hydro has a maximum life of 25 years. In 10 years time there will only be nuclear power stations. Where was Scottish labour in the discussions with Scottish Power when they decided to close Longannet early – precisely nowhere. The environment and the opportunities that it can present for sustainable communities and job creation are recognised and worked on by every other western European Union country other than Scotland and the Tory lead government at Westminster. No wonder the SNP and other label Scottish labour as a watered down version of Conservative policy. Regards Neil

  2. Hi the people who run Glasgow are in for a big shock in the council elections they don’t listen
    to anything that they are being told the state of my area is a disgrace with litter junkies imagrants I can not get a smaller house because they are priority so I wish you all the best but you are fighting a hard battle we don’t have any answer to the SNP.s lies and propergander so hopefully you can Chang this
    Jim Hamilton
    Good luck and best wishes

  3. Labour has lost it’s way. Yes it does need a new direction – but the ground that was Labour’s in Scotland has been largely captured by the SNP.I can think of so many examples where labour in the past has not stuck by its principles and SNP has been able to capitalise on that by taking a more principled stance e.g. the most recent issue of fox hunting (again!) (Blair originally didn’t even vote for that bill); Trident (nuclear disarmament should be a fundamental Labour stance); Iraq war (where SNP got it right) and now labour (admittedly the London branch) seems to be even in agreement with some of the recent benefit cuts! Where are those solid and reassuring labour principles that we used to have? Changes in leadership will only have an effect if leaders stick by their principles. Forget about winning the next election – at this stage we need to regroup and decide what our principles and priorities are and be prepared to fight for them over the longer term. The main change required is to shift to a labour party that has clear and unwavering socialist principles – that will eventually convince the Scottish public – not playing musical chairs at the top.

    1. The SNP positon on fox hunting was anything but principled. It in fact undermined the SNP’s core principle (no voting on english matters), to the point where Sturgeon was forced to admit they were doing it just to wind Cameron up.

  4. SkillMatch does indeed have great potential but only if someone follows it up.

    HThere is nothing more demotivating than to receive no response .

  5. The Labour party was much more interactive when membership/subs were collected at a local level. The Membership Secretary spoke to people, got them engaged in meetings and working in campaigns.

    I love new technology but organising everything from the centre means less people contact and a remoteness from the decision making process.

    Scotland lost Labour because it always expected to have its vote. Working down South, as I did then, we had to fight hard for every Labour vote. Canvassing was a regular activity. Local branches had some power and some influence. We managed to change blue seats into red ones.

    We have never been canvassed at our Glasgow flat in 27 years!!!

    1. Sue Im genuinely interested to know what message Labour uses in England to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives when all the evidence shows that the Conservatives and Labour follow the exact same “KEY” policies and ideals and only vary in the timing of the delivery of them.
      Privatisation welfare cuts benefit cuts tuition fees nuclear power WMD proliferation more austerity all common ground. What are you offering that is different and worthwhile when all the “KEY” policies are exactly the same?

      1. Perhaps you missed the evidence of how the SNP were inclinded to cut and paste the “Red Tory Traitor” aka Labour General Election manifesto pledges into their own “left wing progressive” offering?

        No doubt you also missed the fact that until then, in 8 years of government, you’d be hard pressed to find a single truly progressive policy enacted by the SNP (as proven in a car crash interview at their manifesto release party)

        Gosh, it’s almost as if the Nationalist rhetoric, and your descriptions of the same, has no bearing in reality.

        1. Yes Gareth I believe everybody but Labour drones missed all that as nobody but Labour seems to be living within your reality.
          Labour pretended to adopt free tuition in Scotland they pretended to adopt universal benefits they even pretended to support the council tax freeze while their councils whinged and whined about their funding.
          Do you honestly think people didn’t notice the 180 degree policy direction shift of Labour in Scotland and their 180 opposite polarised promotion of policies from their leadership in London? Did you honestly think the people of Scotland would be fooled into believing Labour in Scotland would deliver 1000 more nurses than any number proposed by the SNP on the back of London property taxation?
          Do you think the whole of Scotland is as gullible as a Red Rosette voting drone?

  6. Politics, like economics can be dull, dull, dull.
    However it is important to us all, and serious, organised and mass-membership political parties are the key to a functioning democracy, I would have thought.
    Sadly this tract from Kezia, while well meaning, is about as interesting to read as a Donald Trump self-critique.

    Do a bit of rabble-rousing, Kezia, if you want recruits. Shout it out. Enthuse people–dont talk like a railway timetable.

  7. Dear Kezia,
    Due to a combination of ill-health and general temperament, I am not a natural team player, preferring instead to support my party with my vote and the occasional tenner.
    Having said that, I thoroughly approve of your can-do attitude and the way you come across in radio and television interviews. I think your proposed changes are all excellent and I hope you are given the opportunity to implement every one.
    You have my vote.
    With the very best of luck and good wishes,

  8. that is a reflection on how to reform a party not a vision of how to create a strong vibrant country capable of making the wealth needed. there are four ways of creating wealth, grow it, make it, extract it, foreign tourism and perhaps foraign assets. of course a little can be destroyed by having too many mps, msps, and various members of devolved assemblies and councils who are all overpaid.

  9. Then Labour are beat before they start. The Branch and CLP’s have been suffocating Labour for decades and are little more than closed shops for contesting groups to use to advance the political careers of ambitious individuals.
    Conference is outdated as it cannot deal with the swiftness of change within modern society. A total restructuring of the pary is essential in the long run to attract new and younger members. The Tories, or Lynton Crosby to be exact, played Labour and the SNP like a well tuned fiddle to win the election.The first step you must take is to adapt the tactics of Crosby and between now and polling day drive a wedge between sections of the working class and the SNP. The under 25’s, disabled and unemployed should be a target vote. Labour should be the party of Aspiration, in particular those who aspire to escape poverty and discrimination the curse of unemployment, and the virtual slavery of Zreo hours work. Scottish Labour are in a rut.

    J McLean Bsc Social Sciences with Sociology

  10. I need to see more about local democracy . We have out up for too long with local party machine politicians who saw their role as a right rather than a privelige and whose behaviour has driven many voters away from labour . There must be a radical shake up of selection and better quality as well as greater local tax raising and accountability

  11. Kezia, I would love to see a Scottish Labour Party, get back to our grass routes polices, back to basics that put Labour at the front. We need better education for our children, as it’s our children’s future that’s at stake, better health service as the S.N.P, are not doing anything. Good luck in running for leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

  12. 1. What about the relationship with the “UK” Labour Party?
    2. What about the fight against the Tories and more importantly the SNP?

    Despite the statements about being less “internalised” – i read the list of 10 as being just that!

  13. Kezia,
    I didn’t vote for you but I have been impressed by your performance in the Scottish Parliament. We need a vibrant left and democratic party to stop Scotland sliding into a single party state. Let conference make our policy !
    We need strong proposals in the Scottish Parliament for the redistribution of power and wealth to flush out the duplicity of the present government. We must stop the Nats manipulating the facts by robust challenges. Meanwhile, things may get worse before they get better.

    Good luck …. I think we will all need it

  14. The Party has to accept that a change has happened to the way the people of Scotland think about politics. People want our devolved Parliament to have almost total control over their lives and for the UK Parliament to play a far lesser role. ‘ The Scottish Labour Party’ must become just that in every sense. A fully devolved organisation, managed in Scotland, totally. For example when I rejoined recently why was the welcoming letter from Ms Harman? Scotland has good, smart people capable of running The Party in Scotland. Best wishes.

  15. As others have said, changing Labour rules and processes will not get us out of the hole we find ourselves in. Nonetheless, it has a role to play.

    What I read from what is outlined above is that members must be prepared to do more and bringing them closer to the leadership is part of that. If so, I agree.

    I expect that many of the members who are prepared to do most for the party are the new members. At the moment they join they are making commitment to contribute to the movement. We must jump on this opportunity and build on the commitment shown.

    Engaging with new members is perhaps common sense, but it was not my experience as a new member last year. I think reviewing the welcome the party gives to new members must be the 11th point on the list above. This should include training for campaign activities and a guide to how the conference works (a mystery to me).

    The wider membership must also be engaged. Almost every single member I have met is fully focussed on delivering social justice and there is no shortage of ideas about how this can be done. As alluded to by Kezia, we must do what we can to encourage that and harvest these ideas. I feel that we should encourage the membership (via the CLPs) to reach out and find out what the big local issues are and have them campaign to resolve them where they can. By empowering the grass roots in this and other ways we can make the most of our grass roots and begin to regain trust.

  16. I have only recently become a fee paying member of the Labour party in Scotland although I have been a Labour voting supporter at every Municipal, Scottish, British and European Election since 1960 when I became eligible to vote.
    I feel very strongly that the three main problems which contributed to the disastrous Labour results in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom were:- 1) The failure to define and to state clearly and often, the core objectives of the party nationally and in Europe.
    2) The lack of imagination, and downright common sense on the part of party officials and elected representatives, including members of the shadow cabinet, MPs, MSPs and MEPs exemplified by the venality, extravagance, carelessness and lack of humility of far too many elected representatives. Labour elected representatives are not supposed to behave just like Tories giving Nationalists the opportunity to say that “they are all the same.”
    3) The extraordinary complacency of the party leadership in Westminster which ‘just like the Tories’ treated Scotland as a branch office of London.
    I feel equally strongly that if the Labour Party is ever again going to form the government of Scotland and the whole United Kingdom, these problems have to be addressed and rigorous solutions found.

  17. Part of the battle in Scotland is against what I would term “other worldly” nationalism. If you leave aside the independence issue (which a majority of Scottish residents do not want) and the nuclear issue (where the nationalist views are shared by some in Labour) the USP of the SNP is their claim to be fighting for the people of Scotland against a Westminster system which is biased against them.

    That is why I therefor why I would like to see more emphasis on autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party. However, I would go further and say that until the Scottish Labour Party can convince that it has the authority to make its own decisions in and for Scotland and until it can legitimately claim to visibly influence national policies to incorporate and reflect its views nationally in Westminster then it will struggle against the narrowly partisan approach of the SNP.

    This requires both a very public devolution of power to the Scottish Labour Party (including areas like candidate selection) and also a very clear structure in the national Labour party which emphasises the role and contribution of the the Scottish (and Welsh ) communitie(s) in the national agenda. This may require some sort of organisational structures which exhibit this e.g. create policy teams that clearly identify English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish teams, not just by including regional representatives but by structuring the team explicitly on a regional basis.

    This may seem artificial but in my view it is crucial to crack the SNP mantra that “Westminster cannot be relied upon to speak for Scotland” while at the same time stopping short (but only just short) of the establishment of an “Independent Scottish Labour Party” affiliated to the Labour Part in Wales and England on a federal basis.

  18. Many of the Labour members commenting on this post seem to believe that the party has “core values” which the people of the UK will rally round if only it got its act together. However Labour no longer represents the values its rank and file claim to believe in and this has been openly and amply demonstrated in recent years, Trident, Iraq, austerity being just a few examples.
    So why would a party which likes to portray itself as the Peoples’ Party support George W Bush’s imperial designs as enthusiastically as Labour did? Why would its MPs troop into the Tory lobbies in support of the Charter for Budget Responsibility having listened to speaker after speaker from the coalition government explicitly explain that it meant £30bn in austerity cuts?
    We can talk about senior members like Blair, Brown and Darling feathering their own nests with the help of their newly-acquired friends across the water or their more junior colleagues looking for lesser monetary rewards and baubles from UK businesses, quangos and peerages in London but this doesn’t explain the deafening silence from Labour’s steadily diminishing “rank and file.”
    But here they are again in this comments section, whining about what went wrong and who is to blame. Jim Murphy, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson,Kezia Dugdale and the rest did not work in isolation. Where were the in-house rebellions against Trident and Iraq? Where were the attempts to deselect pro-austerity MPs and MSPs? Labour members in my area were happy to turn out with local Tories to campaign for a No vote; why are they complaining when that process ran to its inevitable conclusion?
    Labour’s broad strategy was set out in the last century; win back Tory waverers in the South of England by moving to the right. It has been its main tactic from Blair to Milliband and it looks like it will continue unless Corbyn has a late surge. Analysis of its abject failure has only produced “we didn’t go far enough” and we are likely to see a continuing rightward drift in the years to come.
    Talk of Scottish Labour developing an independent strategy is just so much garbage. The UK party hierarchy is aware that this would be a propaganda coup for the Tories. See how England reacted to the possibility that Labour MIGHT support leftist SNP MPs at Westminster; does anyone really believe that the prospect of returning Scottish socialist Labour MPs will play any better with uneasy Tories in Ipswich and Gloucester? And a branch office? What, specifically, did Johann Lamont try to do that London Labour blocked? I think we should be told!
    Jim, above, says that Labour should continue with its attempts to “drive a wedge between sections of the working class and the SNP.” Fair enough but it hasn’t worked up till now and for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I’ve mentioned above, Scottish Labour does not, nae cannot, provide a better alternative. But more importantly, Scots now know that even the SNP can’t save Scottish services from the massive service cuts which are going to continue flooding over us from Westminster. Cuts to schools, hospitals, benefits etc are what Austerity is all about. Scots are not stupid and can smell hypocrisy when they encounter it.
    There was a time when I believed that Scottish Labour was the key to a better Scotland. Even when I was persuaded that Scottish independence was an essential ingredient in this future I still, for a while, believed that Scottish Labour would eventually embrace independence. However, its leadership and its rank-and-file decided there was a viable future “pooling and sharing” in the UK. Again, fair enough, it is their choice but, as Mhairi Black repeated in her maiden speech at Westminster this week, Labour has left its former Scottish supporters behind. She appealed for co-operation and solidarity amongst the anti-Tory parties at Westminster, naively gazing across at the sparsely-populated Labour benches but their out-of-touch occupants had long ago closed their minds.
    However, those of you who are criticising Kezia for her frankly bewildering, pointless article should ponder on your own role in Labour’s slow demise and the fact that, when the stricken Titanic is sinking beneath you, you might as well just rearrange the deckchairs because there’s nothing else you can do now.

  19. the USP of the SNP is their claim to be fighting for the people of Scotland against a Westminster system which is biased against them.

    “That is why I therefor why I would like to see more emphasis on autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party. However, I would go further and say that until the Scottish Labour Party can convince that it has the authority to make its own decisions in and for Scotland and until it can legitimately claim to visibly influence national policies to incorporate and reflect its views nationally in Westminster then it will struggle against the narrowly partisan approach of the SNP.”

    I find this passage particularly staggering in its duplicity and lack of self awareness.

    First off No party can truly be a UK wide party of representation and a Devolved Party of representation without being totally and absolutely separate from each other in control and decision making.
    That is a circle that simply cant be squared. You have to chose to be one or the other. The Conservatives have chosen to be the party of England the SNP the party of Scotland. Only Labour and the Lib Dems are trying to be the party of the UK and it is no longer working as the UK is no longer a union in any real and measurable terms.

    Secondly you simultaneously promote the idea of an autonomous Scottish “Nationalist” labour party while also promoting the idea that being autonomous and “Nationalist” is “Narrowly Partisan”.

    I get the idea you don’t want Scotland to be Independent of Westminster but for the life of me I will never understand why because if EVEL gets introduced it wont serve the Labour party in Scotland either.
    Do you people even have a clue as to what you actually want?
    What level of Devolution or Federation or whatever best serves the people of Scotland? And is it compatible with the best level which serves the Labour party across the UK? And which do you think is better for you? That which serves Scotland or that which serves UK Labour?

  20. We need leadership – asking everybody what they think is all very well but…. The S.N.P’s beguilingly simple solutions – we need to expose them with force. They want to abolish the Royal navy, British Army, and Royal Air-force. How about pointing that out.
    As a multilateralist, I cannot vote to shut down Faslane and create thousands of job losses in the Lower Reaches unemployment black spot. When Labour takes a stand on issues, the votes will come back. Create an intelligence agency to analyse the facts and figures instead of guessing. The party needs brains.

    1. I cant tell if you truly believe that delusional rubbish or your another willing participant in the absolute corruption of the Labour party.

      The SNP want to expand the Scotlands conventional armed forces to a greater degree than it is now as opposed to the conventional cuts proposed by both Labour and their Tory colleagues in the Conservative party.

      Multilateralist? So you are a delusionalist! There is no such thing as multilateral disarmament that is a lie perpetrated by those who wish nothing more than to hold onto their WMDs as it gives them a feeling of world supremacy and dominance. An exclusive club who pay lip service to disarmament while spending billions on proliferation.
      Think about the logic of spending hundreds of billions on a system you’re pretending you would abolish at the drop of a hat if only you could get everybody to agree to do the same thing even though they all agree they all want to do it and then you understand the stupid bare face lie that is multilateral disarmament.
      Its not only the party that needs brains.

  21. I think Kes’ 10 points give a very good direction to our need to renergise the Party and regenerate its capacity as a movement for progressive change. I particularly like the emphasis on creativity because we have to be considerably more creative than hitherto in both the substance of Labour policies and the way they are offered to the electorate – more creative and smarter. Failure to intelligently use the membership for this has been a long-standing waste of valuable resources. I think Jeff Banning has an excellent point too about demonstrably realigning the various national bases of party activity. The Scottish electorate is yearning for some kind of UK federalism; Labour should not only be offering this but demonstrating it in its structure. Finally a thought about Labour’s fundamental principles – we should not let these become confused with policies and practices. It might be a good exercise as a Party to engage in a collective process to restate our core principles so that we can then redesign the policies and practices needed to deliver on them in today’s and tomorrow’s conditions. Just a thought.

  22. I’m picking up a trend here. Labour Hame, publish an article which receives comment from interested followers (25 so far from this one) but there is no response to the comments and opinions from the author of the article.
    One hears a lot of rhetoric from the Labour cognizant about reconnecting, about listening, about reaching out, usually to the ‘core vote’. Well I’ve read this article and the 25 comments and they are all from Labour supporters desperate for guidance. They want answers. Where are you Keizia?

  23. Kezia, any chance of nailing the constitutional question.
    Full home rule and nothing less.
    I’d mention the minimum wage but the £8 by 2020 was embarrassing even by Tory standards.

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