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.