Kezia calls for more autonomy for Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Kezia Dugdale has set out plans for more autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party that would see control over policy and candidate selection transferred north of the border.

The party leader and Lothians MSP wants to be responsible for policy making, party membership and the management of local constituency Labour parties across Scotland.

“Co-operation” on staffing and finance would be needed between the Scottish and UK parties under the plans and Ms Dugdale is to speak to Labour MPs in the House of Commons today to encourage more autonomy in branches of the party across the UK.

The role and responsibilities of Scottish Labour has been a major topic of discussion for party members since the Scottish independence referendum.

When former leader Johann Lamont resigned last October she said the Scottish party was treated like a “branch office” by the London leadership.

Greater autonomy could mean Labour develop different policies on issues such as welfare and Trident on each side of the border.

Party members are set to discuss policy positions at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth this week.

Ms Dugdale said: “With these reforms there will be no doubt that the main focus of Scottish Labour will be on Holyrood, where the key decisions affecting the daily lives of Scots are made.

“It won’t be the Commons, the Lords or the European Parliament. They are important, of course, but the most important focus of Scottish Labour will be on using the powers at Holyrood to transform the lives of people in Scotland.

“The package of reforms that Scottish Labour agreed in the summer was important, but we must be bolder in seeking to transform our party to regain the trust of the people of Scotland. This will be a radical change in the way Scottish Labour operates.”

Ms Dugdale urged the party to “learn the mistakes” of Scottish Labour. “My appeal is to people across the UK Labour Party - see this as the start of a debate that you can have a big part in. The plans do not seem to have the support of all senior members, however. Former home secretary David Blunkett told a Sunday newspaper: “While it is very sensible to address how each nation in the UK should address the very specific policies and cultural issues relevant to them, we cannot have English votes for English members only. We need to work this through sensibly if we are not to completely fragment the message and with it the values and identity that make up a common Labour party.”

An SNP spokeswoman said: “The chaos and confusion continues for Scottish Labour and it is not clear whether Jeremy Corbyn is closing Labour’s branch office in Scotland or whether Kezia Dugdale is opening a new one.

“While the SNP is focussed on supporting jobs, the economy, our schools and health service, Labour continue to obsess over their internal party structures and leadership power struggles. Most people are fed up hearing about Labour’s narrow internal divisions when there are more important issues, like welfare cuts, the EU migrant crisis or holding David Cameron’s government to account, that should be the priority.”