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I am a semi-retired former Scottish trade union policy wonk, now working on a range of projects. All views are my own, not any of the organisations I work with. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Manifesto 2021 - National Recovery Plan

After more than two years of consultation and engagement, it was good to see the Scottish Labour election manifesto launched today. I have been working part-time managing the process leading up to the publication, so it is personal closure for me.


Drafting a manifesto is not the same as writing a book. That can be a solitary experience, even allowing for the research. A Labour manifesto, unlike some other parties, is not the product of a policy team disappearing into a darkened room to think beautiful thoughts. It is supported by a democratic structure and a series of consultation papers and engagement with members, affiliates and external stakeholders. There were literally hundreds of submissions, meetings and engagement events. The final document is also the product of teamwork with colleagues and elected representatives from all sections of the Scottish Labour Party.

I have been involved in many manifestos over the years, but this has been a very different experience. The pandemic not only meant the process shifted online, but it also impacted the structure and content. Most manifestos are largely done and dusted long before the short campaign starts. However, this year the lessons from the pandemic were an important influence on the final document. It also changed the focus from a parliamentary term to the immediate actions necessary to address the recovery from the pandemic. As one journalist pointed out, ‘recovery’ gets 193 mentions in the manifesto!

That is why the manifesto has two parts. Scottish Labour's National Recovery Plan sets out the immediate actions, and a second part outlines the policies that will address the underlying issues facing Scotland. I am personally agnostic on the constitutional arguments that bedevil Scottish politics. As I am not a nationalist or a unionist, it is just another policy option. What I am not agnostic about is the need to focus on the recovery from the pandemic. When 10,000 people have died, thousands more have lost their job, and 25,000 are ringing the mental health helpline; we need to forget about flags and focus on what really matters.

It is a lengthy document, which I am not going to attempt to summarise. However, it includes many radical policies that I have written extensively about in recent years, including:
  • Creating good quality sustainable jobs to avoid a lost generation of young people.
  • The concept of Good Work that goes much further than the current Fair Work initiative and will be properly enforced through procurement.
  • A real focus on health inequalities, Scotland’s most enduring and deadly problem.
  • Investing in a National Care Service with a new deal for the workforce and local democratic accountability.
  • Preventative spending in areas like housing, fuel poverty, early years and the environment.
  • Tackling climate change, moving from rhetoric to action with a Just Transition.
  • Ending the centralism of recent years through the principle of subsidiarity and investing in the social infrastructure that helps build stronger communities.
A few personal interest favourites include supporting working-class history and protecting our battlefields and other historical sites. Sadly, I couldn’t sneak the reintroduction of steam engines past ASLEF!

I recognise that few people read manifestos from cover to cover. The contents and word search mean you can dip into the sections that interest you. However, in my less than objective view, it’s worth a read.

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