Now we can be Scotland’s Party once more

The changes announced yesterday aren’t enough to win elections, but they will let us speak for the Scottish people again, says ANN McKECHIN


Yesterday Scottish Labour’s Executive Committee met to consider major changes in how we work.

I want to thank Sarah and Jim and all the members of the Review Group for the substantial work they have done. The changes proposed are significant but hugely important for Scotland. In 1999, we devolved power in our country and set in place a Scottish Parliament with massive power and massive potential. But we forgot to devolve our party.

We have put off these changes for too long and there is no doubt they have contributed to a lack of effective and coordinated policymaking. So what are the next steps?

Any formal changes to the rulebook have to be agreed at the annual conference and at a special Scottish conference on 29 October. But some of the changes start now.

The political strategy board will meet for the first time this week, bringing together Westminster, Holyrood, Brussels, local government, the Executive Committee who represent our membership, and the Scottish General Secretary. This will be the first opportunity to have all those people in the one room on a regular basis, talking about our common direction and the issues happening in politics this week and next and developing our campaign strategy. We are not simply going to call ourselves one party – we are going to be one party and start now.

The nationalists have been quick to try and ridicule the changes – and I’m not surprised, because despite all their talk, the SNP’s dreary negativity and constant attacks on their opponents are only too typical.

Structures do not win us elections but these changes allow us to be on the same side as the Scottish people again: campaigning on the real issues that affect Scotland every week rather than fixating on the constitution. Most Scots oppose separation, but also couldn’t understand why our party wasn’t fully devolved. Not since the late 1990s have the structures of our party matched the structures of our country. Now they will again.

The Review process has at times been arduous and painful but I have been struck by the strength of the call from our party members to put in place the changes that will allow us to truly speak for Scotland again. Many of them have already warmly welcomed these proposals. They will make us stronger and give us the platform not just to win again, but to turn the Scottish Labour Party into Scotland’s Labour Party once again.

Ann McKechin is the Labour MP for Glasgow North and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

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10 thoughts on “Now we can be Scotland’s Party once more

  1. This is good news but it is just the start of a Labour revival. Next we need a leadership election now, in which the candidates set out their vision for the future not just of the party but of the country. Then we need to become more serious about evidence based policy creation for Scotland and stop adopting SNP policies everytime we think we might get a bad headline.

  2. who are we kidding, we can have an mp, mep leading us and telling someone in holyrood to ask salmond this or that. we will be a laughing stock. until we get back to the principles of keir hardie and scottish labour, the people of scotland will distrust us. we only have to look at our performance in the opinion polls(i know nobody believes them).

  3. Regardless of who leads Scottish Labour, the greatest weapon the SNP have right now is that they can point to all other major parties in Scotland and say “We are the only totally Scottish party in Scotland.”

    And right now, let’s be honest, that point is inarguable.

    But if Scottish Labour is independent of but allied to the English/Welsh Labour Party, not only is the problem solved at a stroke but a whole new opportunity presents itself: not only would Scottish Labour be a party well able to fight for Scotland in Scotland, but they would also have considerable influence they could use to fight for Scotland’s interests throughout the rest of the UK.

    Is it just me thinking the prospect of that might rattle the SNP rather badly? I certainly don’t think they are opposing it because they want a strong rival…

    I honestly think Scottish Labour are leading the way for the future, here. Devolution opened whole new opportunities for new models of govt, and the status quo needs to shift accordingly.

      1. Like Murdo, an independent Scottish Labour party would find it nie impossible to argue against an independent Scotland.

        After all, if independence is good, or even vital for survival, for both Scottish Labour and the Scottish tories, how can it be bad for Scotland?

        1. Excellent point. But what we’re really talking about is not complete autonomy but rather semi-autonomy: two (Or more, if Wales follows the same path) mutually supportive groups who see their interests as coinciding enough that they can work together for the good of all while respecting each other’s contributions to their alliance. Groups that are stronger pulling together than either would be alone.

          And isn’t that what the UK itself is supposed to be?

  4. My feeling would be that Labour need to accept poll data showing the vast majority (67%) of Scots support Full Fiscal Autonomy – including 58% of Labour voters – if they are to win back hearts and minds.

    The Scots have embraced their parliament and trust it to look after their interests. Labour need to stop being negative about the SNP/independence as that is by default attacking nearly half of Scots voters going by recent polls.

    If Labour does see the future as Scotland continuing to be ruled by a Conservative-led Westminster government, it needs to tell Scots why this would benefit them clearly.

    Scots should be told they can stand on their own two feet and independence would be successful, but at the same time a positive message for the Union should be put forward; this seems clearly lacking and is why Labour is losing the trust of Scots.

    Having voted Labour in the past, I am disillusioned by Ed Milliband saying they are ‘a party of the centre’. What is New Labour? What’s going on? Scots voters are confused; the only party now clearly offering centre-left is the SNP. Why is one centre-left party attacking another when we have a Tory government making huge cuts and widespread right-wing reforms? Why do Scottish Labour not stand with the SNP in protecting Scotland? In the end, it is the Scots who will decide their future, not the SNP, and 70% of Scots support being asked what they want in this matter. To ignore that is folly.

    The Labour movement began in Scotland. Don’t let it die there; it needs to be accepted that Scotland wishes increasingly to govern itself. Reality needs to be faced.

  5. “…the SNP’s dreary negativity and constant attacks on their opponents…”

    If that is genuinely what Ann McKechin thinks, it is only further evidence of Labour in Scotland failing to recognise the reality of what happened in May. I have no doubt that one of the major elements in the SNP’s success was that they were the only party NOT to present an image of dreary negativity, but rather a forward-looking and visionary agenda, whether or not you might agree with it. And as for constant attacks on their opponents, come on! It’s politics, isn’t it? Does anyone seriously think that the SNP attacked their opponents more than, or in a different manner from any of the other parties? This is still head-in-the-sand stuff, I’m afraid.

  6. The SNP currently have no credible opposition. These changes are positive and long overdue but they are procedural. Please let’s now ditch the tired words ‘connect’ and ‘listen’. Hear what people are saying and get sleeves rolled up in communities with a passion and belief in our values. There’s no substitute for hard work at the coal face.

  7. As reported in today’s newspapers, our Westminster MPs are against such changes – and they are right. Let’s come back down to earth and have a close look at the quality of our councillors and MSPs. The sooner we get rid of the dead wood, the sooner we will star winning elections.

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