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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Revitalise Scottish Labour

In the wake of the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections there was a clear determination across the Scottish Labour Party to address the political and organising challenges facing the movement. While the Review of Labour in Scotland had a rocky start, it did result in changes that brought the party organisation into line with political devolution. In particular devolving the rule book and the election of a Leader of Scottish Labour.

However, devolving power is not and end in itself. It requires us to consider what sort of Scottish Labour Party we want to develop and how we should organise to deliver that vision.

The Revitalise Scottish Labour network was established in 2004 to promote greater democracy within the Party. It brought together a broad coalition in support of constitutional change to promote greater debate and transparency for individual members and affiliates. Much, but not all, of this agenda was achieved and party democracy improved thanks to a well organised, broad based network. Revitalise has always been a loose network that brought together party units and individuals, rather than creating another membership organisation.

While Revitalise has traditionally focussed on constitutional change, there is a need to also focus on the battle of ideas. Defining and promoting a new vision for Scottish Labour. Re-energising the party means activists and potential new members need a cause to believe as an antidote to the markets and managerialism of New Labour. Such a vision would address our approach to constitutional change, the role of democratically accountable public services, the environment, social justice and the creation of a more equal society.

While the recent Party rule changes are important, devolution in itself does not guarantee the sort of open democratic party the Revitalise network sought to create. This still requires debate and possibly further constitutional change.

There is a need for greater transparency and engagement with the policy process and not just as part of the manifesto process. Recognising that there is simply not enough political debate at party meetings at all levels. Scottish Party conference is also still more of a rally than an engaging political experience. Other issues covered in the Review report also need careful thought including CLP organisation, candidate selection and the role of Local Campaign Forums.

If genuine democratic socialist policies are to be adopted by Scottish Labour to revitalise the party, the ideas have to be generated and a level of organisation developed to deliver it.  Policy generation on the left in Scotland has historically been limited. UK organisations like Compass and the Fabians have had a limited footfall in Scotland although efforts are being made to change that. Socialist societies (SHA, Co-op, SEA, SERA) play a role in specific fields and the Jimmy Reid Foundation has recently started. The right has established high profile think tanks including Reform Scotland, David Hume Institute and others. Then there are more neutral organisations like CSPP, IPPR North, Scottish Council Foundation etc.

Debate and communications are another traditional weakness within Scottish Labour. Technology has started to change that through Facebook, Twitter and private initiatives like Labour Hame. STULP has also been more policy oriented in recent years. In media terms the Morning Star is growing its Scottish content. There is a growing policy community developing around blogs and other media. These can and should be developed to encourage members and supporters to make policy contributions.

Following on from a well supported fringe meeting at the last Scottish Labour conference it was agreed that the Revitalise network would organise an event to address these issues. That will take place on Saturday 23 June 2012 at UNISON House in Glasgow starting at 1:30pm. Details on the Revitalise website.

In fact it is a political buy one get one free day, as the Red Paper Collective are holding an event on constitutional change at the same venue in the morning. Hope to see people there for what promises to be an interesting day.

1 comment:

  1. I left the party during the New Labour years. If Scottish Labour can show it is on a different route to that period then I might consider rejoining. Wish you well.