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Full devolution proposed for Scottish Labour

The review of the Labour Party’s structure in Scotland has been completed, with a report proposing the full devolution of power to the Scottish party agreed unanimously by the Scottish Executive. Undoubtedly, the proposals would re-orient the Scottish Party to Holyrood in a decisive way, basing constituency parties on Holyrood boundaries rather than Westminster ones,and uniting MPs and MSPs with a single leader also focusing on Holyrood, even if they are an MP – they would be expected to stand for the Scottish Parliament and become First Minister. However, there could also be an unacceptable concentration of power in the new Leader, based on the Blairite command and control model.

The full details of the package, according to Labour’s Scottish website, are as follows:

  • create, for the first time, an elected Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
  • open that position to all Labour parliamentarians elected in Scotland, provided they commit to seek election as an MSP and First Minister
  • fully devolve the Scottish Labour Party in all Scottish matters, including the rules for the Scottish Leadership election, local government processes and selections, and Scottish parliament selections
  • begin the process of restructuring local parties in Scotland on the basis of Scottish Parliament seats, not Westminster seats
  • establish a political strategy board, meeting weekly, to develop and co-ordinate political strategy with the Leader, Shadow Secretary of State, the leader of the COSLA Labour Group, the party chair, and the Scottish General Secretary
  • establish a new political base in Edinburgh

The package wil be put to the UK party conference in September and a special Scottish Labour Party conference in Scotland on 29 October.

Based on this information, the package sounds like the right solution. However, the Scottish Daily Record also suggests that the new arrangements will greatly concentrate power in the Leader:

Heading up a new management board, he or she will gain unprecedented powers over policy making, election strategy and hiring and firing key staff. They will set policy in all areas devolved to the Scottish parliament, recognising the present informal arrangements.”

That is much more worrying, especially when combined with the Record’s predictions they will “kick out long-serving MPs and MSPs and train a new generation of “top notch” candidates.” The Scottish Herald has already reported a major purge of Glasgow councillors :

Currently, around 17 of 47 Labour councillors have been told they have not been selected as potential candidates and with two suspended, several ill and a number retiring, as many as 25 of the current crop look set for the off.”

And it added:

The cull has been driven by London, with input from some local key players. One party source said: ‘The guy from London, Ken Clark, has done this across the London boroughs and knows all the backgrounds of those being interviewed. If he’s in your interview, it’s bad. They’ve been savage and in all my years in politics I’ve never known anything as brutal.’ ”

A number of Londoners will recognise that description. Nevertheless, our own sources suggest that the purge in Glasgow does not appear to be a matter of purging the Left or indeed based on any other political basis.

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